Kenneth Spencer Research Library, The University of Kansas

The Spencer Research Library's Kansas Collection is the regional history division of the University of Kansas Libraries. The Collection provides researchers with primary source materials that document the history of Kansas and the region.

Visitors are welcome to visit Kenneth Spencer Research Library's North Gallery, the signature feature of the building. The space includes glass-enclosed book stacks with selections from the collections, a new permanent exhibit, and windows that offer sweeping views of the KU campus. From August to May, artwork created by KU students is also on display in the North Gallery as part of the LibArt program, sponsored by KU Libraries.

Like similar institutions, Spencer has closed book stacks, which are secure, climate-controlled, employee-only storage areas for collection materials. The book stacks in the North Gallery display a sample of the library's impressive distinctive collections. They were inspired by a similar feature in Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which opened in 1963, as preliminary planning for Spencer Research Library, which opened in 1968, was underway.

Thanks in part to a gift from former KU Librarian Ann Hyde and the generosity of friends of KU Libraries, renovations of the North Gallery were completed in 2017. A new permanent exhibit was installed at the same time; it shares information about some of the collections and items on display and includes interactive, self-guided multimedia tools.

The North Gallery and all other exhibit spaces in the library are open to visitors whenever the building is open. The library is open to everyone. Visitors to the North Gallery and Exhibit Space include: middle and high school students doing History Day research, University of Kansas students, faculty, staff, and alumni; visiting researchers; and members of the community.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library is home to books, manuscripts, photographs and materials in many subject areas, including the Kansas Collection, Special Collections and the University Archives. Librarians are available to consult with researchers to help plan their use of Spencer’s rare and unique resources, such as books, manuscripts, photographs, and materials in many subject areas.

The unique and treasured collections at the Spencer Research Library include ancient and medieval manuscripts; one of the largest collections of Irish literature outside Dublin; special collections in the history of science and education; the Kansas Collection; the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements; and the University Archives.

The Territorial Kansas Online collection explores the turbulent times of "Bleeding Kansas." Hundreds of personal letters, diaries, photos, and maps bring to life the settling of Kansas during the fierce debate over slavery. This collection includes lessons plans for grades 6-12 that meet the Kansas education curriculum standards.

The Leon K. Hughes Photography Collection is a chronicle of African American family and community life in Wichita, Kansas from the late 1940s through the 1970s. The images provide an "inside" view of African American life rarely seen by the general public. They show family gatherings celebrating marriages, birthdays and graduations and reveal a vibrant community life comprised of a wide array of churches, schools and organizations.

The Pennell Collection consists of more than 30,000 glass plate negatives that represent the life work of Joseph J. Pennell, a successful commercial studio photographer who worked in Junction City, Kansas, from the early 1890s to the early 1920s. It provides a comprehensive view of life in a moderately-sized, Midwestern, army-post town on the Great Plains at the turn of the last century. The University of Kansas acquired the negatives, along with 10 ledgers of business records, in 1950. More than 4000 images from this collection have been digitized.

Requests for delivery of items from the stacks are accepted until 45 minutes before closing. All collection materials must be returned at least 15 minutes before closing.

Contact Information

1450 Poplar Lane

Lawrence, KS 66045

Phone: 785-864-4334


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Research Library