Archive for Sunday, August 15, 1999


August 15, 1999


Kansas University's museums have expanded through the years, and plans are in the works to continue that trend.

Kansas University's museums offer students, faculty and visitors everything from fine art to anthropology.

And the repositories of the world's past aren't collecting dust.

Officials with the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art, for example, are working on a study to expand the 21-year-old building, thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from Lester "Dusty" and Katherine Haughey Loo, of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Here's a rundown of some resources available at museums on campus:

Spencer Museum of Art

The Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art is the art museum of KU. Its building, at 1301 Miss., also encompasses the Kress Foundation Department of Art History and the Murphy Library of Art and Architecture.

The museum's seven galleries display selections from the permanent collection of more than 17,000 works of art. Special exhibitions drawn from the collection or touring from other museums are displayed in four additional galleries.

Because the museum serves as a resource for the teaching and study of art history, fine arts and the humanities, the collection is comprehensive in nature and spans the history of European, North American and East Asian art.

Areas of special strength include medieval art; European and American paintings, sculpture and prints; photography; Japanese Edo-period painting and prints; and 20th-century Chinese painting.

More than half of the museum's Western paintings and sculpture are on permanent exhibit. The much more numerous Western and Asian prints, drawings, photographs and decorative arts -- including the museum's renowned quilt collection -- are shown on a rotating basis in short-term, thematic exhibitions.

Objects not on view are available for scholarly examination by appointment.

The Spencer building itself -- a neo-classical structure built from Indiana limestone and designed by Kansas City architect Richard Jenks -- opened in 1978, but the museum traces its roots back much further.

In 1917 Sallie Casey Thayer, a Kansas City art collector, offered her collection of nearly 7,500 art objects -- an eclectic collection of paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, furniture, rugs, textiles, metalwork, ceramics, glass and other examples of decorative arts, primarily from Europe and Asia -- to KU for a museum "to encourage the study of fine arts in the Middle West." The collection formed the basis for a museum of art in 1928.

Since then, the collection has grown substantially and by the late 1960s the museum had outgrown its quarters in Spooner Hall, which today is home to KU's Museum of Anthropology.

Helen Foresman Spencer, another Kansas City collector and patron of the arts, donated $4.6 million to finance construction of the museum that stands today.

Gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; closed Mondays and Jan. 1, July 4, Thanksgiving Day and Dec. 25.

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is in Dyche Hall, just south of the Kansas Union.

Researchers have access to nearly 6 million specimens and collections that rank KU among the top five universities in the country, based on support from the National Science Foundation.

The museum's exhibits, which emphasize Kansas and the Great Plains, include:

  • Fossils of dinosaurs, fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates.
  • Naturalistic dioramas of birds, mammals and plants.
  • Live snakes and fish, plus bees in a working hive.
  • The Panorama, billed as the largest diorama display of its type, depicting animals, plants and natural environments, from the Arctic Circle to the tropics.

The museum also is home to specimens -- including some in alternate locations -- for scholastic study involving botany, community ecology, entomology, herpetology, ichthyology, informatics, invertebrate paleontology, invertebrate zoology, mammalogy, ornithology, paleobotany and vertebrate paleontology.

The museum is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is open noon to 5 p.m. on federal holidays, but closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving Day and Dec. 25.

Museum of Anthropology

KU's Museum of Anthropology is in historic Spooner Hall, at the northeast corner of Jayhawk Boulevard and 14th Street. It manages and displays collections of ethnographic and prehistoric archaeological materials, primarily from the North American Great Plains and Northwest Coast, Africa, New Guinea and Australia.

The museum, which opened in 1984, offers a glimpse into how people make their living, what they believe and how they communicate and get along with one other.

Operating with a worldwide focus, the museum seeks to acknowledge the variety of satisfactory solutions to problems of the human condition.

KU's collections of archaeological and ethnographic specimens began to accumulate around the turn of the century, as a result of collecting expeditions and alumni donations. The Division of Anthropology was added to the Museum of Natural History in 1946, with responsibilities for caring for these collections, expanding their scope and providing academic support services to the university.

Overcrowding led to the creation of the museum as a separate division of KU. It was granted space in Spooner in 1979, and opened its doors to the public five years later.

The Spooner building has a history, too.

It was dedicated Oct. 10, 1894, and is named for William B. Spooner, an uncle of Francis H. Snow, KU's fifth chancellor. The building is made from limestone embellished with red sandstone, and was designed by Henry Van Brunt, a Kansas City architect.

Given its architectural significance, the building -- an example of Richardsonian Romanesque, a style popularized for libraries by American architect H. H. Richardson in the 1870s -- is listed as a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.

The building was designed as a library, and overflowed its stacks by the 1920s. Watson Library opened in 1924, and Spooner became the Spooner-Thayer Museum of Art in 1926. Spooner's art collection overflowed its space by the 1960s, and in 1978 moved to the Spencer Museum of Art.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Wilcox Classical Museum

The Wilcox Classical Museum, in Room 103 of Lippincott Hall, includes displays of life-sized plaster replicas of famous works of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture.

Some of the replicas go back to 1888, when KU was amassing a collection reflective of what many other universities were compiling at the time. Back then, Greek and Latin were staples of the curriculum, and the goal of the collectors was to provide students and area residents an idea of the sculptural masterpieces of the ancient world.

The Wilcox Collection has grown during the years, with additional casts as well as small-scale antiquities, including coins, vases, sculpture and inscriptions.

The collection had been displayed in old Fraser Hall, where students learned their Greek and Latin under the watchful eyes of Homer and others. In the early 1960s, with the demolition of old Fraser, the collection went into storage until 1988, when two rooms opened in Lippincott to permit a display reminiscent of old Fraser.

Hours: 8:15 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is

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