Skip to main content

Kenneth Spencer Research Library Archival Collections

Explore finding aids to discover unique and historical primary sources at the University of Kansas.

What is available on this site?

On this site you can search finding aids that describe archival collections held in the Kansas Collection, Special Collections, University Archives, and the Wilcox Collection at KU's Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Finding aids are added to this site as collections are processed and made accessible to researchers.

Books, maps, journals, and other published print materials at Spencer are described in the KU Libraries online catalog.

This site includes some of the archival materials at Spencer Research Library that have been digitized. All digitized items can be found by searching KU Digital Collections.

What are archival collections?

The New York Public Library describes archives as "records created by people and organizations as they lived and worked." Collections can range in size from a single document to hundreds of boxes. They generally contain unpublished materials such as letters, diaries, drafts of literary works, financial records, meeting minutes, reports, scrapbooks, memorabilia, photographs, and audiovisual materials. The unpublished materials in archival collections are usually one-of-a-kind items that exist only in the collection where a researcher finds them.

What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is an essential tool for researchers. It is a document created by archivists to aid researchers in navigating an archival collection and finding information about subjects, people, places, and events within it. The level of detail varies between finding aids. However, in general each one describes the creation, content, context, and organization of materials in a specific archival collection. Reading a finding aid can help researchers efficiently determine whether a particular archival collection might be relevant to their information needs and to discover boxes or folders of interest within that collection.


If you have questions about finding or accessing Spencer's archival collections, please contact the library's Public Services staff at or 785-864-4334.