The Weird and Wonky: the stuff you didn’t know we had in the Special Collections and Archives

For the start of the 2017 semester the Graduate Assistants (Jennifer Murphy, Amanda Vestal, and Hannah Johnson), at the McFarlin Library Special Collections and Archives, have created an exhibit which features some of the stranger items in our collections. Over the years, many people have donated various books, documents, and works of art. Among these more conventional donations we have also received some rather remarkable and odd items. Many of these items were haphazardly thrown in with large donations without much explanation for their presence.

In the Anna Kavan Papers we discovered used hypodermic needles. After some basic research about this author we learned that Kavan was a heroin addict most of her adult life. When processing this collection, the librarians found the needles acting as staples holding papers together.


In the Vann family archive we found a trove of weird items, some were very personal objects. The Vann family were an important and prominent Cherokee family, originally from Georgia, who later settled in Indian Territory Oklahoma in the mid-1800s. In this collection we discovered shoelaces, a meat cleaver, handmade lace collars, baby shoes, and a pair of dentures made with human teeth.


For this exhibit we also included several items from the seemingly random John W. Shleppey collection. From this collection we have displayed a man’s wedding ring, a bag of rocks, miniature playing cards, and a mysterious object made from two walnut shells and two small wooden stakes. We have postulated that this mysterious item could be a child’s toy, a fishing bobber, or even a drop spindle. If anyone has any information or ideas about this item we would be most appreciative to hear from you.


The items mentioned in this post are only a taste of what we have displayed in our exhibit hall and these items are only a fraction of the interesting items we have in our many collections. This exhibit is free and open to the public Monday – Friday 8am-5pm and will be on display until March 26th

This entry was posted in Collections, Exhibits and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *