Reconciling the "mystery letter" : Frémont's fourth expedition, John Kern Strecker, and the Baylor University Museum.
Found amongst the collections of the Mayborn Museum Complex, the subject of this thesis is an enthralling fragment of a "Mystery Letter." Written in 1849 by Benjamin J. Kern, a surviving member of the Fourth Frémont Expedition, the letter weaves a harrowing tale of starvation, mutiny, and cannibalism. Significant to the history of the Western frontier, the letter also holds relevance to one of Baylor University's most beloved sons, John Kern Strecker. Revisiting Strecker and the Baylor University Museum through the lens of the undocumented object, much is learned about the institution's history. The letter is evaluated for its present and future function at Baylor, particularly in light of the growth of the Mayborn Museum Complex as it adapts along with its constituents and modern museum practice. Despite the letter's profound relevance to the museum and Strecker, the greatest public and academic use of the letter is via transfer to a more appropriate institution.