Robert J. Farris Slides

As a (fledgling) birder, hiker, and once-upon-a-time wildlife biologist, anytime I see anything on our shelves that says “bird”, my interest is piqued. I have been walking past this stack of boxes for almost two years now, but the slides they contain are so small that I had resigned myself to never writing about them. How was I ever going to write a blog post when the pictures are no bigger than a postage stamp? There are many objects in our archives that are preserved in outdated ways (you should see some of the tapes we have!), and it can sometimes be so frustrating when we can’t see them the way we’d like to.

Photo showing a hand holding up one slide in front of a box opened to show many more slides neatly organized

Tiny bird picture

Four metal boxes stacked on top of one another, each labeled "Robert J. Farris Collection Slides of North American Birds"

The boxes on the shelves










I was lamenting over this predicament when my counterpart, Jacalyn, reminded me that there are apps for everything. Within minutes I had the app downloaded and the subjects picked out, I was going to (finally!) get a better look at these slides I have been waiting to see.

My initial choice was probably a poor one. I decided that a hummingbird would be a cute one to show you guys, because who doesn’t love hummingbirds? Like many bird enthusiasts, Farris used good cameras. We know that the photographs on these slides were taken with a Nikon Nikormat camera with Zoom Nikor Automatic 200mm, 300mm Soligar, or Reflex Nikor 500mm lenses. But even with those fancy lenses, hummingbirds are just… really small birds.

Grain photograph of a few small tree branches with a barely discernible hummingbird perched on top

Can you see the tiny hummingbird?!

Robert J. Farris took these photographs between 1974-1983. Some of them are included in the “American Birding Association Checklist of North American Birds”, published in 1975. Our four boxes comprise of about 2,200 slides, a fraction of the total number of slides produced by Farris. In total, he made about 16,000 bird slides which are spread out throughout Tulsa. Some of them are at the Oxley Nature Center and the rest of them reside with the Tulsa Audubon Society.

A small owl head poking out of a hollowed out space in a tree with greenery in the background

A Common Screech Owl nestled in a hollow

The slides themselves are annotated with information about the species of bird and occasionally the location where they were photographed. Some of them say things like “Philbrook” or “North Tulsa”. They were not all photographed here, but as Farris was a Tulsa resident, he did much of his work here in the Tulsa area. I wonder if I have seen any of these birds great-great-great-great(a few more greats…) grandchildren flying around?

Photo of a grey bird with a peach belly and a very long skinny tail sits perched on barbed wire in a field

Oklahoma State Bird, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

This last photo is of a bird you haven’t seen around here for a while. The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher only spends the summer in Oklahoma, as they prefer to spend their winters somewhere warmer. When it starts to warm up outside, keep an eye out for these guys perched on barbed wire, road signs, or telephone wires.

We have many, many other treasures and outdated technologies here in the Special Collections Department. If you would like to see any of it, please send us an email at

About Kelsey Hildebrand

Kelsey is GA in the Special Collections department currently pursuing a Master's in Museum Science and Management.
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