The Art of the Book: Challenging Our Concepts

Many of the books and book-like objects to be seen in The Art of the Book, now on exhibit at the Zarrow Center, will challenge our notions of what constitutes a book—that ordinary and universally recognized thing that British author Paul Scott referred to as “a small, hard, rectangular object”.

The Artists’ Book:  Unlike authors and illustrators of the traditional book who may be constrained by the wishes of editors and publishers, the book artist is free to experiment with textual content (or the lack of it) and the combinations of all sorts of media.   The artist may choose to combine texture, color, sculptural qualities, moving parts, pop-ups, imagery (conceptual or non-conceptual), sound, and, in some cases, even smell. In other words, the artists’ book may engage some or all of the viewer’s senses while moving beyond words and intellect to communicate with the viewer.

Anatomy of the traditional book–a book you will not see in this exhibit

Some influential 20th century movements in the book arts are (to name only a few):

The Russian Futurists,
German Bauhaus,
The Dada Movement,
The Fluxus Movement,
The New Realism, and
American Pop Art.

The Altered Book:  Also on exhibit is a selection of altered books.  Technically, the illuminated manuscript could be considered an early form of the altered book; however,  Tom Phillips, a British artist, is credited with initiating the modern altered book movement when, in 1966, he bought a used and very inexpensive Victorian novel, A Human Document, by W.H. Mallock, and transformed it into his own work, A Humument.

A Humument:  A Treated Victorian Novel.  Tom Phillips.  London:  Thames & Hudson, 1980.

A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel. Tom Phillips. London: Thames & Hudson, 1980.

An altered book is created from an existing book (old, new, or recycled), utilizing an almost unlimited range of methods and media—re-binding, dis-binding, reshaping, cuts , tears, folds, assemblage and/or additions of 3D objects, painting, relief printing, collage, pockets and windows, pop-ups, and the use of or marking out of existing text—in order to alter its original form.

The Art of the Book continues through June 28th at the Zarrow Center for Art & Education, downtown in the Tulsa Brady Arts District.

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Closed for Employee Appreciation Week and Memorial Day


memorial day



McFarlin Library Special Collections and University Archives will be closed on Friday, May 22 and Monday, May 25, 2015, in observance of Employee Appreciation Week and Memorial Day. We will reopen on Tuesday, May 26, 2015, at 8:00 AM. Have a safe and happy holiday!

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Due to a power outage, special collections is closed, Tuesday, May 12.

We are sorry for any inconvenience.

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New Special Collections Librarian, Melissa Kunz, joins department


The staff at McFarlin Library Special Collections and University Archives is very excited to announce the addition of a new Special Collections Librarian, Melissa Kunz. Melissa received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hendrix College in Arkansas. After receiving her Bachelor’s, she received a Law degree from the University of Oklahoma. She then received a Master in Library and Information Studies from the University of Oklahoma. Melissa has completed internships with the Woody Guthrie Center and the Mabee Legal Information Center at the University of Tulsa College of Law. While working toward her MLIS, Melissa also interned with the Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth (CCEW) at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa. She worked on a team made up of six interns from various degree programs at OU-Tulsa. The CCEW is an economic development think tank that allows students to work with researchers and mentors to help solve real-world problems.

Please join us in welcoming Melissa Kunz as the newest member of our department.

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The Great War, 1915: Entrenchment

dept poster

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives presents The Great War, 1915: Entrenchment, an exhibit focusing on the second year of World War I. Featuring photographs, artefacts, and books from a variety of World War I collections held by Special Collections, this exhibit details how advancements in battlefield technology and an emerging philosophy of “Total War” led to increasingly deadly conflicts and the escalation of atrocities both military and civilian.

This exhibit addresses the changing social attitudes of the early twentieth century. These changes were reflected in both contemporary literature and the advancements in technologies used for warfare, such as the use of poison gas, airplanes, and trench lines. The exhibit also focuses on key events that occurred in 1915, including the Gallipoli Campaign, the sinking of the Lusitania, and the development of humanitarian relief.

This exhibit will run from May 4 to Jul 31, 2015, and is open to the public. The Department of Special Collections and University Archives is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. However, starting June 1 through July 31, 2015, the department will close at noon on Fridays.

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McFarlin Fellows Event with Historian Dr. Geoffrey Wawro


The University of Tulsa Department of Special Collections and University Archives and McFarlin Fellows hosted a reception and dinner this past Thursday, April 16th, with guest speaker Dr. Geoffrey Wawro.  The evening began with a cocktail reception on the Albert Plaza, followed by dinner at the Pat and Arnold Brown Reading Room. After dinner, Dr. Wawro presented his talk titled “A Mad Catastrophe: The Real Reasons for World War I.”

Dr. Wawro is a Professor of Military History at the University of North Texan and the Director of the UNT Military History Center. His primary areas of expertise and interest are modern and contemporary military history. He has published four books on military history, including his most recent publication, A Mad Catastrophe: A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire, published in 2014.

Military history has always been an interest of Dr. Wawro. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with his Bachelor’s before receiving his Master of Arts in European History from Yale University. He also completed his Master in Philosophy in European History and Doctorate in Philosophy at Yale. Wawro has also hosted several history programs on the History Channel, as well as teaching Strategic Studies at the U.S. Naval War College.

Wawro has won the Austrian Cultural Institute Prize and Society for Military History Moncado Prize for Excellence in the Writing of Military History. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Vienna from 1989 to 1991 and an Andrew W. Mellon Doctoral Fellow at Yale University from 1991 to 1992.

Wawro’s presentation was based on his most recent book, A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Hapsburg Empire. He charted the decline of the Hapsburg empire before the war, as well as the designs that Germany had before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Wawro delivered a fascinating account of a highly debated and complicated topic, ultimately laying the blame for the beginning of World War I at the feet of the newly formed German state.

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Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of President Lincoln’s Assassination

This past Tuesday, April 14th, we commemorated the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. President Lincoln was shot by American actor and Confederate spy John Wilkes Booth on Good Friday, 1865 while attending a performance of the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. After he was shot, the President was taken across the street from the theater to the Petersen boarding house by three doctors and some soldiers who had been in the audience. Their efforts to save President Lincoln were in vain. He passed away from his wounds at 7:22:10 a.m. on April 15, 1865. After a twelve-day manhunt, Booth was shot and killed by Union Army Sergeant Boston Corbett.
In our efforts to preserve history, the University of Tulsa’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives holds some materials related to President Lincoln’s assassination. For example, our department holds a forgery of the broadside playbill for Our American Cousin for that fateful night printed a few days after the assassination. The genuine playbill did not mention Abraham Lincoln’s attendance, since it was only announced on the same day. This forgery was probably created in order to extort money from unwitting collectors. In addition to the playbill, our department holds a piece of the wallpaper that adorned the walls of the balcony on which President Lincoln was assassinated. This artifact is framed along with a manuscript inscription that reads “A piece of paper hangings detached from the box in which our President was assassinated. F.L. President Lincoln.”

Our patrons may also enjoy looking at the texts from the James Alexander Veasey Library. This personal library contains numerous volumes on the history of President Lincoln, the Civil War, and President Ulysses S. Grant. One of the most interesting books found in this library is an 1868 first edition of the history of the United State Secret Service.

McFarlin Library’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives invites our students, faculty and general public to take a look at these pieces of American history.

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Department in Transition, Part 1

The office of McFarlin Library Special Collections is currently in a state of transition. In preparation of adding a new office for a new Special Collections Librarian, the fabulous staff and students have been working hard to rearrange areas of the department. Some of the uncataloged materials were relocated to remove some shelving. A larger space was created by relocating the projects workspace and moving a section of filing cabinets. Here are some before and after shots. There will be more changes coming soon so stay tuned for future updates.

After the materials were moved.

After the materials were removed.

Now the shelves are gone.

Now the shelves are gone.

The project workspace removed.

The project workspace moved.

The new projects workspace.

The new projects workspace.

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Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day

With the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, the staff of the University of Tulsa’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives would like to highlight some of its holdings pertaining Irish poets and writers, as well as its close relationship with prominent Irish figures. The literary and social contributions of these men and women are undeniable, and their legacies endure to this day. Our department holds a vast amount of materials related to late-19th and early 20th century Irish literary figures, as well as some of their contemporary counterparts.


Color portrait of James Joyce from the Paul and Lucie Léon Collection of James Joyce

Probably the most prominent figure in our collections is James Joyce. The broad spectrum of Joyce materials in our collections begin with the Richard Ellmann papers (1988.012). Ellmann was a prominent literary biographer who not only wrote the definitive biography of James Joyce, but also of Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats, Joyce’s fellow Irishmen. In addition to Ellmann’s Joyce-related materials, our department holds a substantial set of Joyce’s correspondence (1000.012) that includes handwritten letters, postcards and calling cards from James Joyce to Leon Paul Fargue, Mrs. Richard Hughes, Mlle Raymonde Linossier, Armand Petitjean, Sean O’Faolain, Charles Ogden, and Niall Sheridan. Rounding out our Joyce archival holdings is the Paul & Lucie Léon Collection of James Joyce (1984-005), which consists of correspondence between Paul and/or Lucie Léon and James Joyce and other friends, colleagues, and fellow Joyceans; page proofs for Finnegan’s Wake and page proofs for James Joyce and Paul Léon, the “Story of a Friendship” by Lucie Léon Noël; over 60 photographs and photo-negatives of James Joyce, the Léons, colleagues and friends, and Joyce family members; and a blue/white striped tie once belonging to James Joyce, a porcelain lion (a gift to the Léons from James Joyce), press cuttings pertaining to Joyce, theatre programs, exhibition announcements, and book seller catalogues. Our department also holds seven first editions of Joyce’s Ulysses. Our holdings pertaining to early 20th century Irish poets and writers are no limited to James Joyce. We have available numerous first editions of works by W.B. Yeats and Oscar Wilde.

1000-012-7-1Letter from James Joyce to Niall Sheridan from the James Joyce Correspondence Collection

Materials related to more contemporary Irish authors and poets have also found a place in our holdings. For example, our department holds the correspondence of Irish poet Richard Murphy (1988.014), who also spent some time at the University of Tulsa as a visiting professor. Murphy’s correspondence includes exchanges with, among others, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin and Sylvia Plath. Murphy has also graced the University of Tulsa by appearing as a McFarlin Fellows guest speaker. McFarlin Fellows and our department have also welcomed the late Seamus Heaney. Heaney, whose work embodies the spirit of contemporary Irish poetry, was the 1995 Nobel Laureate in Literature. Another contemporary Irish poet of prominence welcomed by our department is Paul Muldoon. A close friend of Heaney’s and a Pulitzer Prize winner in his own right, Muldoon has graced us with his reflections on his relationship with Heaney, as well as readings of his poetry. McFarlin Fellows has also welcomed Mary Robinson, the seventh President of Ireland and former High Commissioner for Human Rights for the United Nations. Robinson was also the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

 Seamus Heaney WorksSome of our Seamus Heaney original editions.

The University of Tulsa’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives is delighted to celebrate the contributions from these prominent Irish men and women.

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English Author Neil Gaiman Visits Special Collections

03-10-15 neil gaiman sm-101

English author Neil Gaiman paid a special visit yesterday afternoon to the Department of Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Tulsa. Gaiman is known for his novel American Gods, his Sandman graphic novels, and his children’s book Coraline, among many other literary works. Gaiman was in Tulsa for an event sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers at OSU-Tulsa, and took this opportunity to visit our department and take a look at an exhibit of our extensive collection of R.A. Lafferty materials. Lafferty, who passed away in 2002, was an Oklahoma science fiction writer. Gaiman credits Lafferty as one of his biggest influences and the reason he wanted to visit Tulsa. Gaiman is quoted as saying:

I’ve never been to Oklahoma. I’ve never been to Tulsa. And this is odd, because Tulsa has been, ever since I was about 19, the place in America that reeked of literary magic to me. I had plucked up my courage, and written a fan letter to R. A. Lafferty, from an address I found in the back of a book of authors in my local library. He was my favorite author in the whole world, and, months later (because the letter took a long time to find him) he wrote back. He told me how to become an author, and his advice was very good advice, and so I did. It left me quite certain that the finest literary advice in the world came from Tulsa, Oklahoma, for it did in my case.

Gaiman is a devoted admirer of Lafferty’s work, to the point that he wrote an obituary for the The Washington Post upon Lafferty’s death, expressing that Lafferty was “undoubtedly the finest writer of whatever it was that he did that ever there was. He was a genius, an oddball, a madman.”

The Lafferty materials examined by Gaiman included some of his correspondence, typed manuscript drafts of his published and unpublished works, a number of his photographs, fanzines that included his work, and some of his awards. Among these awards were a Japanese Seiun Award (1994), a Phoenix Award (1971), a Hugo Award (1973), and a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award (1990). Gaiman also perused some foreign editions of Lafferty’s works in Japanese, Dutch, Polish, German, French, Italian, and Spanish.
In addition to the Lafferty materials, Gaiman enjoyed the comic book exhibit on display at the department, which will be up until March 21st. The Special Collections staff was delighted to welcome Neil Gaiman to our facilities.

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