Collection Development Policy for the Kansas Collection

Mission/Statement of Purpose

The mission of Kenneth Spencer Research Library is to connect scholars in varied disciplines with the information that is critical to their research, while providing excellent services in a welcoming and comfortable environment.

The Kansas Collection documents the history and culture of Kansas and the everyday lives Kansans from the territorial period to the present. Of secondary emphasis is on the history of the four contiguous states and the Great Plains.

Printed holdings include works about Kansas as well as a wide variety of journals, books, and ephemera printed in Kansas, by Kansas organizations, schools, churches, and state agencies. The Kansas Collection is a repository for state documents.    

User Population

Kenneth Spencer Research Library is open to all researchers, regardless of academic affiliation or place of residence. We welcome University of Kansas students, faculty, and staff as well as visiting researchers and members of the community. 


The social, political, economic and cultural history of the state and region, are represented through strengths in the following categories:

  • African American experiences
  • LBGTQ+ experiences
  • Hispanic/Latinx experiences
  • Agriculture
  • Arts
  • Natural and built environments
  • Businesses
  • Cities and towns
  • Education
  • Ethnic immigration
  • Journalism
  • Politics
  • Local government
  • Military
  • Early printing
  • Religion
  • Women’s history
  • Migration across Kansas

Collection Parameters

Collection materials are in a variety of formats. Formats include print (books, posters, etc.), manuscripts (letters, scrapbooks, business records), photographs, maps, audio and video records, and films. Increasingly these materials will be in digital formats and will require additional resources to maintain. 

Manuscript holdings include the personal papers of many individuals connected with the state and region; some well-known for their work, such as authors, and politicians, and many representing individuals and families whose stories are important to understand everyday life in the state and region. Records for many voluntary organizations such as women’s clubs, service organizations, professional organizations, and local grass root efforts are represented. Business records for selected small businesses, as well as records relating to Kansas churches and schools are also available.

The printed collections include a variety of publications, both published in Kansas, and about the state and region. Kansas territorial and early statehood imprints are exhaustively collected. Later imprints are evaluated and added to the Collection if their subject content deals with Kansas or the region, or, if the information provided by the imprint provides unique information about a Kansas or regional organization, business, community or press. Contemporary books published by academic presses on Kansas topics are generally placed in the KU Libraries circulating collections, with duplicate copies added to the Kansas Collection when a second copy is deemed necessary for research.   

Geographical Parameters

The majority of holdings focus on the history of the state of Kansas. Of secondary interest is the Kansas region, comprising the four contiguous states of Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, particularly the areas of those states that lie adjacent to Kansas.

While efforts are made to represent the state and region, there is a collecting strength for resources relevant to Lawrence and Douglas County history, given the location of the University.

Chronological Parameters

Chronological coverage of the collection reflects the history of the development of the state. Collection holdings cover the 1850s to the present. Materials dealing with the exploration of the area prior to the establishment of Kansas as a territory are included in the holdings of Special Collections as part of their emphasis on American travel and exploration.

Language Parameters

The majority of Kansas Collection holdings are in English. Given the ethnic diversity of settlement in Kansas, some printed works and personal papers include items written in other European languages, such as German, Spanish, French, and Swedish. As the documentation of ethnic groups in Kansas is a high collecting priority, foreign language sources will continue to be added to the collection.

Collecting Scope

Collecting focus has been placed on acquiring materials that broadly reflects the economic, cultural, social, and political history of the state. Emphasis is placed on acquiring unique collections of the personal papers of individuals and families with connections to Kansas; the archival records of Kansas organizations and businesses, and local government records for Douglas County. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Manuscripts (letters, diaries, scrapbooks, autobiographies, business ledgers, letterpress volumes, speeches, sermons)
  • Historical photographs (glass negatives, prints, slides, ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, photo postcards)
  • Books (travel accounts, reports, Kansas publications, public school yearbooks, membership directories, church histories)
  • Pamphlets, serials and journals, and printed and manuscript ephemera (broadsides, posters, bumper stickers)
  • Audio recordings, including oral interviews
  • Film and video recordings
  • Maps, including bound atlases and gazetteers

Special collecting emphasis is placed on acquiring documentation of the African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and Native American experiences; women’s history; the environment; and the arts in the state and region. 

Not Collected

The Kansas Collection does not routinely accept three-dimensional artifacts, copies of photographs owned by other institutions, Kansas newspapers, random newspaper articles, or family Bibles. Manuscript collections are not accepted if they are represented, already, in another repository. Multiple copies of pamphlets, newsletters, travel brochures, etc., that might be found in personal papers of records of organizations are not retained beyond two copies.

Duplicate copies of materials are generally not accepted, or retained, unless one or more of the following criteria apply:

  • High demand
  • Physical condition is better than the one already owned
  • Presence of annotations or extraneous materials that are important to the item and focus of the Kansas Collection

Overlap with Other Collections

Unique resources in the Kansas Collection add to the richness of resources available at the Kansas State Historical Society and the Watkins Museum. State records are not acquired, as these are required by law to be placed in the State Archives at the Kansas State Historical Society. Likewise, Kansas newspapers are not actively acquired, given their availability through the State Historical Society.

Selection Process

Emphasis is placed on acquiring collections that are not readily available elsewhere, fill known gaps within the Collection, or fall within an area of emphasis. The majority of materials are acquired through donation, with ownership of materials transferred to the University. The Kansas Collection does not accept records or papers on deposit.

The Curator, with appropriate input, makes final decisions on all acquisitions. Both the Curator and Field Archivist are actively involved in directly soliciting manuscript and photographic materials, and will complete a deed of gift for each manuscript donation with the donor at the time of donation.   

Kansas Collection Contacts

Phil Cunningham

Kansas Collection Curator


Deborah Dandridge

Field Archivist and Curator, African American Experience Collections