Wednesday, February 12, 2014

OU Western History Collection

When I was a history and anthropology student at the University of Oklahoma, our professors raved about the OU Libraries' Western History Collections, and we even toured it as part of an Oklahoma history course I took. But at that time, I was much more interested in world history and ethnography, so Native cultures and the history of the American West felt much too close to home for my adventure-seeking younger self. I was impressed with the Collections, but I didn't dig in too deeply there.

And impressive they are. It's one of the biggest and most important archives of materials on the Southwest and Native American tribes. They have collections of rare photographs, recordings, manuscripts of interviews with tribal citizens, Native art, and maps, much of which is available digitally on the their website.

The Western History Collections have recently come back into my life in a big way because I'm auditing a class that OU offers for free online called Native Peoples of Oklahoma (there aren't any assignments and it's self-directed, so you might still be able to sign up and access the materials, which are great if you're into Native history and culture). The course materials make good use of the Collections' digital archives, so now, 20 years after I started at OU, I'm finally getting around to sifting through all this good stuff.

Frank Phillips was the archive's first benefactor, and the original collection is named for him. Here is his gallery of American Indian portraits.

Here is the transcript of an interview done by the WPA in 1938 of Margaret Gerlach Moody, who was one of the original white pioneer settlers of Woodward, OK, after her husband made the Land Run of 1893.

I loved this photo gallery of Guthrie, OK (where I went to high school), during the 1889 Land Run.

The Doris Duke Collection is a bunch of transcripts of interviews of tribal members, including this fascinating interview with Ed Red Eagle, Assistant Chief of the Osage Tribe and Tribal Council Member, on Osage government and culture.

There is also a Native American manuscript collection which includes some of Wilma Mankiller's papers, which were donated to the Collections after her death.

I can spend hours clicking around the website, reading and reading the transcripts and looking through the pictures. I only wish they showed the photos in a larger size on the web instead of just offering to send you a file if you request it. I may need to make a special trip home sometime so I can spend an afternoon in Norman poking around Monnet Hall like I never did when I was actually a student there.

I hope you also get distracted and forget to make dinner! Enjoy.


  1. Cool! Good for you! Now shoot me an email every couple of days telling me how much you are learning and it might spawn me to get on with my photography class!

  2. I'm just going to text you daily pics of me playing games on my iPhone when I'm supposed to be reading the class assignments.


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