The White Alphabet

The White Alphabet is an artwork, typographical experiment and a feat of paper engineering. It’s an embossed book containing the letters A-P cut in a pop-up fashion on a continuous piece of paper. The author/artist Ron King came up with this idea when he collaborated with the poet Roy Fisher on ‘Scenes from the Alphabet’ in 1978. This first piece was created using the pop-up letters paired with poems. From this, Fisher encouraged King to develop the work into something more. In 1982, King decided to concentrate on this project. It took months of folding paper before he found the proper way using a square grid.








King is known for more than making books, and he’s also a painter, collagist, and sculptor. His work is abstract and figurative, with the use of bold colors. He’s considered an original all-around artist with his skill and inventiveness in how he works with paper, wood, and metal. He was born in 1932 in Sao Paulo, Brazil and moved to England in 1945 to attend Ardingly College in West Sussex, where he then gained entry into the Chelsea School of Art. In 1956, he immigrated to Canada with his wife and sculptor Willow Legge. He has held many roles within the art communities where he lived, such as the art director in the McLean Hunter Publishing house; a teacher at the Farnham School of Art; and he set up a workshop in Guildford with a group of artists and poets to produce limited edition artist books, posters, and prints. He continues to create in his studio in West Sussex, with a focus on large wooden sculptures.


If you’d like to see Ron Kings, The White Alphabet in person you can always come to visit us in Special Collections, located on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am until 4:30 pm. If you’re a fan of artists books or want to learn more about them, our current exhibit, Artist’s Books: Challenging Norms & Forms showcases 24 unique artist’s books from our collection. The exhibition runs until March 22, 2019.

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Tulsa activist Barbara Santee has died

Barbara Santee, a Tulsa-born activist and graduate of The University of Tulsa, died aged 81 on November 7, 2018.

She had worked in the TU Center for Health Policy Research, and was also an executive director for the Oklahoma state affiliate of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL).

Santee donated more than 40 years’ worth of materials related to her activism work to Special Collections in 2015. The papers include her research, written articles, her creative work including plays and poetry, as well as photographs of activist events and marches. One of the record groups comprises documents from a local reproductive rights clinic, demonstrating the challenges a typical clinic faced in the 1980s and 90s, such as hate mail, and protesters, who were recorded on VHS cassettes that Special Collections has digitized.

Also included in the collection are more than 300 buttons and pins related to reproductive activism that Santee wore on various pieces of clothing to different marches and events.

A memorial service for Santee has been planned to take place at All Souls Unitarian Church on January 12 at 3pm.

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Artist’s Books: Challenging Norms & Forms

Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Tulsa McFarlin Library is pleased to announce our new Winter 2019 exhibit, Artist’s Books: Challenging Norms & Forms.

Artist’s books are works that challenge the traditional idea of what a book is. Frequently they lack a spine, words, or a strict narrative. Their physical format can often be interactive and part of the “story” or information the artist wanted their audience to engage with.

Special Collections has a wonderful set of artist’s books that range from fine art press books with painted illustrations to unusual objects like a red high heel shoe sliced in half with an accordion book added to the middle. We also have sculptural items like miniature altars, a Mobius strip, and a piece that requires looking into a mirror to fully experience.

We’ve chosen to present 24 of our favorite artist’s books in the Special Collections Reading Room on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library. The exhibit is open to everyone, Monday – Friday, 8am to 4:30pm.

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Craig Sheppard’s Illustrations

Craig Sheppard was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1913 and studied art at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. During his college days, he was also a bareback rider in rodeos from Oklahoma to New York’s Madison Square Garden. After college, he worked as a wartime draftsman at the Douglas Aircraft plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While there he would create three-dimensional drawings from the complicated blueprints for aircraft assembly.  He was also an art instructor at the University of Montana in Bozeman. In 1947 he became the chair of the art department at the University of Nevada. In 1955, he was given a Fulbright award to lecture at the University of Oslo on Native American art. While in Norway his artistic style became more abstract, flat, and new colors immerged making his art more vivid, while stronger linear contours started to appear in his pieces. He traveled throughout Europe many times and brought a new element to his artwork with each trip. In his final year of life, he was awarded the Artists of the Decade Award from the Nevada State Council on the Arts in 1978.

His artwork was versatile, from book illustrations, watercolors, and even murals. He’s best known for his watercolor paintings of western life-horses, riders, and ranchers on the range. Some of these illustrations can be seen in Anthony Amaral’s book Mustang: Life and Legends of Nevada’s Wild Horses, which a leather-bound copy is located in Special Collections (636.1009793 A485M). The book traces the history of the Mustangs in Nevada down to the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, including photographs of the wild horses and the men who captured them.

If you’d like to see Craig Sheppard’s illustrations in the book Mustang: Life and Legends of Nevada’s Wild Horses (636.1009793 A485M) written by Anthony Amaral, you can always visit us in Special Collections, located on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am until 4:30 pm.

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Harlan I. Smith Anthropology and Archaeology collection

Anthropology is a branch of the social sciences that is dedicated to the study of human societies and cultures and their development. The field of anthropology is split into specific sub-categories that address different areas of the field of study. These are recognized as socio-cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, archaeological anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and applied anthropology. The subfield that is most commonly associated with anthropology is archaeology which is the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains.
Archaeology started as a form of antiquarianism where people would study items of the past during the 19th century but has since become a widely recognized discipline across the world. Some of the earliest and most notable archaeological excavations took place on world-famous sites that we know today. Between the years of 1612-1697, John Aubrey excavated Stonehenge in England with additional large monuments in his record; he was one of the first archaeologists to chart his findings and organize them by style and categories. Other notable excavations took place 1748 and 1738 when archaeologists conducted excavated the ancient towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum which was covered in hardened ash due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
Here at the McFarlin Library Special Collections, we have some historical, anthropological documents found in the Harlan I. Smith Anthropology and Archaeology collection (1933.003). In the collection, there is a wide array of anthropological and archaeological materials that provide information on excavation sites in the Americas. Some notable items in the collection, for example, is a book from the 1889 American Anthropologist book that is studying the aborigines of the District of Columbia and the Lower Potomac. This work provides an in-depth look at the research conducted by the archaeologist and provides field notes that come with the study. The most substantial area of the collection is from field studies conducted in Michigan; the collection contains information on antiques, archaeological surveys, and summaries of the field work that was performed in the state. The materials in this collection are truly fascinating as it provides examples of early North American archaeology and anthropology.
If you are interested in looking at the Harlan I. Smith Anthropology and Archaeology collection (1933.003), you can come to the 5th floor of the McFarlin library to Special Collections. We are open Monday through Friday, from 8am-4.30pm. We look forward to seeing you!

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Art Deco in Tulsa

Tulsa, Oklahoma has an outstanding collection of Art Deco architecture. The style is mainly found in the “Deco District” in downtown Tulsa, but it can be seen throughout the city on churches, schools, and gas stations to name a few. Special Collections has its very own Tulsa Art Deco Archive, 1977-1981, that’s comprised of materials assembled by the Tulsa Junior League before, during, and after the publication of the book Tulsa Art Deco (Junior League of Tulsa, 1980). The collection includes photographs of various Tulsa buildings, as well as some miscellaneous slides, research notes, background materials, interviews, and minutes from when the book was compiled. It also includes drafts and galleys, page proofs, an unbound copy of the book, and six blueprints of various Tulsa buildings built in the Deco style.

The Tulsa Fairgrounds Pavillion

The first two boxes contain photographs of Art Deco buildings around town. While looking through the folders, I found a few buildings that caught my eye. First, the Fairgrounds Pavilion (1982-006-1-010) stands out, because of the terracotta designs along the roof-line. The panels depict a horse, ram, and steer with stylized foliage in the background. There’s also a panel over the arched entrances of three horses and another with men and their livestock. These designs showcase the elements that the Art Deco style is comprised of. The folder has multiple photographs of the building, including close up shots of the terracotta designs, along with a description of the building’s history.

Next, one of the most iconic Art Deco buildings in Tulsa, the Philcade (1982-006-1-029) caught my eye. The building uses a mixture of designs to perfectly showcase the Deco style. There are floral designs paired with stylized eagles that can be found over the large first-floor windows. There is a wrought iron grill in the foyer that has a floral design, which seems rather whimsical, considering its utilitarian function. Art Deco is not a single style, it is a mixture of different and often contradictory ones, which can be seen on the inside and outside of the Philcade building.  The folder contains many photographs, along with an extensive typewritten description of the building’s history.

A detail on Philcade building

Philcade Building

If you’d like to look at the Tulsa Art Deco Archive, 1977-1981 (1983-006) yourself, you can always come to see us in Special Collections, located on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am until 4:30 pm.

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University of Tulsa Football Photograph Collection

Football has become America’s favorite pastime, which brings families together to watch the sport and has become the most popular sport in the United States. Football is introduced to the lives of most Americans when they are children, they often play peewee football or watch the games on the television with their families. Football can draw large crowds from high school games to professional games, with a variety of the level of the sport being shown on TV.

Football is important at the University of Tulsa, a school with a rich history of the sport in its past. The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricanes Football program is an NCAA Division I program that competes in the American Athletic Conference. The University of Tulsa was formerly known as Henry Kendall College until the change of the university name to the University of Tulsa on February 8, 1921. The twenties were considered a period of success for the football program, where it was referred to as ‘the glorious twenties.’ After an opening day win against a strong Texas Christian University team in 1922, Head coach Howard Acher put his mind to work. The press had claimed that the Kendall football team blew through its opponents like a tornado. So, it figured that Tornadoes would be the nickname with “golden” added to identify the color of the uniforms. However, it was later found that Georgia Tech had claimed that name, so from tornado, it was evolved meteorologically to a hurricane. In 1930 the University of Tulsa opened Skelly Stadium, which was named after William G. Skelly, a local oilman who donated a large sum of money to the building project. The University of Tulsa football program is rich in history that dates back to 1895, which is unique to the story of the university.

Here at McFarlin library special collections, we hold a piece of this history in our archives. Our collection has photographs of the University of Tulsa football team from 1895 to 1976, and these photographs include team photographs and individual pictures of coaches and players. These photographs are from a historical period in the history of the University of Tulsa’s football program; they allow the viewer to take a look back through history to see the evolution of the school and the program.

If you would like to look at the Tulsa football collection yourself, you can always come to see us in Special Collections, located on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am until 4:30 pm.

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Peter Forster’s Wood Block Prints

In 2011, the independent Oscar Wilde scholar, Merlin Holland graciously donated a set of colored prints and masks entitled “Awful Brevity,” created by Peter Forster to Special Collections. This specific print was used in the 1991 Folio Society edition of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis. The seven prints found in the collection are perfect examples of the grueling process of creating wood engraved prints. Forster printed them on very light newsprint and then scalpelled out the areas he wished to color, used that mask, inked up the block and then printed it. According to Holland there were likely 10 passes made on the press and the seven prints in Special Collections give an idea of the amount of time and degree of craftsmanship that goes into the wood engraving process.

Forster describes the process on his website as “the most long winded method of making a rather small picture ever devised. One cuts (with special tools) into a lump of box wood (specially manufactured) for hours and hours, then one prints lots of it, then one writes on every print the title, the number of each print in the edition and the date, and then one signs them.”








Forster decided to become an artist while he was in school because he found that he wasn’t good at anything else. He illustrated and jacketed books for various publishers and worked for a graphic design studio in the Department of the Environment. After some time be decided to return to free-lance work and created illustrations in wood engravings and pen and ink for The Times, The Observer, Saatchi and Saatchi, and for The Folio Society. He was also asked by the Royal Mint to design a coin commemorating Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.

If you’d like to see Peter Forster’s wood engraved prints from the Merlin Holland Collection of Peter Forster’s De Profundis Wood Block Prints (2011-037) you can always come see us in Special Collections, located on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am until 4:30pm.

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WWI Reconnaissance Photographs

November 11th, 2018 marks the centenary of the end of World War I. The Great War was one of the deadliest conflicts in history due to new technologies and industrial developments, with a great deal of trench warfare. It is estimated that nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a direct result of the war, this is in addition to the 50-100 million lives that were lost due to the influenza epidemic.
An important feature of World War I was the use of Aerial reconnaissance. Aerial reconnaissance is reconnaissance for a military or strategic purpose that is conducted using reconnaissance aircraft. The role can fulfill a variety of requirements, including the collection of imagery intelligence, observation of enemy maneuvers and artillery spotting. Reconnaissance aircraft – not fighters or bombers, which remained relatively rudimentary – were the focus of military aviation in the First World War. Allied powers dedicated resources to developing technical capabilities in aerial photography, photo interpretation, and aerial targeting for artillery, as well as a system for disseminating intelligence to commanders in the field. Aerial reconnaissance was arguably one of the most technologically advanced weapons that they had at the time, which was underestimated for a long time. Over time it proved its value by providing the military with imagery hat mapped out the enemy position and revealed the significant defenses that stood between them and the enemy. Aerial reconnaissance was extremely important for the use of trench warfare also, because it revealed to the military personnel the shape of the trenches and the best way to access them without being compromised.
Here at McFarlin library special collections, we have a collection of World War I aerial reconnaissance photographs that contain images that were taken during the Great War. The collection contains 75 aerial photographs of the battlefield that reveals the territory that the battle is taking place in, it reveals the elevations of the ground, and it reveals the trenches that have been dug into the ground. These images are fascinating because they hold rich history from a major component of World War I, without this technology then things may never have turned out the way that they did. However, with advances in technology, the War was able to be won, ending one of the most brutal Wars in recorded history

If you would like to come and visit the WWI aerial reconnaissance photographs (1000.128.1) in person, you can come to the 5th floor of the McFarlin library to special collections. We are open from 8 am -4.30 pm, Monday to Friday. We look forward to seeing you!

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Walt Whitman

In 1952, Tulsa businessman Rush Greenslade and group called the Tulsa Bibliophiles deposited with McFarlin Library a large collection of Walt Whitman books, and ephemera, creating the first ‘rare book room’ in the library.  This was in the north wing of the basement in what had formerly been the men’s locker room.  In 1966, the Bibliophiles formally deeded that material to the University.

The rare book area moved around a bit until the actual current Jack H. and Tybie Davis Rare Book Room was established, and Special Collections began to grow.

In 1984, McFarlin obtained its first Online Public Access Catalog, LIAS (Library Information Access System).  At that time, the Library had 1,441,345 volumes, a majority of which were uncatalogued to judge from the commentary in the old student newspapers.

In Special Collections, a scheme was enacted to help alleviate that problem.  People were assigned to generate “Brief Records”, essentially author/title/publisher and which collection they were affiliated with.  One of these was the Walt Whitman library.

The department cataloger has been upgrading these brief records as she can find time, and she is currently working on Whitman.  This afternoon, she found this unassuming little volume, only to discover it wasn’t a book at all.  It’s a wooden box done up as a copy of Leaves of Grass.  In it are 100 different photographs of Whitman, and of artwork of Whitman.  There is also a photograph of a building, and a few advertisements depicting Whitman, and a few bits of other ephemera.

These will be added to the Walt Whitman ephemera, approximately 1854-1975 and be made available for researchers interested in Walt Whitman.

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