Special Collections

Special Collections Intro

Imagine our internationally renowned Special Collections being poised to...

Acquire rare works that become available once a century, as we did recently with the 1623 Orazio Grassi De Sphaera manuscript.

Acquire contemporary rare materials, such as the personal papers of Wilma Mankiller, the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Attract to campus the very scholars whose books line our shelves to interact with students and faculty. Imagine a student being able to discuss Civil War history with the individual whose book they have studied in class.

Build tools and resources that increase access to our collection in order to provide students the opportunity to grapple with the original records of human culture.

It is from the intersection of our rich primary resources about the human experience that our researchers and students create new knowledge.

Special Collections Intitatives

Building on excellence in our special collections begins by:

Enhancing Access

Our digitization laboratory increases access to OU's resources while also increasing our international visibility via the Internet. We seek to take the extraordinary treasures housed here, and multiply their impact on imaginations worldwide by making them accessible to the world.

Increasing Awareness

By partnering with other top-tier institutions such as Oxford University, the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Max Plank Society, we can extend our reach of access to OU resources while increasing the visibility of the university.


Building a Living Library

By stimulating dynamic, cross-disciplinary conversations around significant aquisitions through exhibits, public lectures and programs that illuminate and contextualize these rare materials, we are creating a living library.

These conversations will cultivate public engagement with students, the public and scholars from around the world.

Integrating Primary Source Materials

As classes at OU increasingly incorporate research methods into the curriculum, we will provide access to primary materials from our collections to more than 1,000 first-year students.

Providing these primary resources allows students to learn for themselves what it was like to live during that period of history.



Special Collections Examples IBooks

Learn more about the iBook virtual exhibits being produced by our special collections.

A Living Library

This iBook is a guide to the physical exhibit, "A Living Library," housed in the History of Science Collections of the University of Oklahoma Libraries. With this guide, you can read a brief description of each item on display and swipe through a gallery of images showing additional pages in any book that catches your eye.

View on iTunes

*You must have iBooks downloaded to view this exhibit.



1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition

This virtual exhibit highlights the primary source materials of the 1904 Lousiania Purchase Exposition held within the Western History Collections at the University of Oklahoma Libraries.

View on iTunes

*You must have iBooks downloaded to view this exhibit.



Renovation of History of Science

Renovation History of Science

The renovation of the 5th floor of the Neustadt wing of Bizzell Memorial Library creates new opportunities for OU Libraries to showcase the University’s many treasures found in our special collections. The newly renovated space will house the History of Science Collections, the John and Mary Nichols Rare Books Collection, the Bass Business History Collection, and the Bizzell Bible Collection.

The renovation will include many new features, such as:

• A central exhibit hall with more exhibit space and an improved traffic flow 
• An activities room for a hands-on learning experience for young and old alike
• A technology-enhanced Harlow classroom 

The Galileo's World Exhibition will open in August 2015 as an international event and will be promoted across campus and throughout our alumni and donor population. Bizzell Memorial Library’s main floor will feature a Galileo and Popular Culture exhibit.  Joint exhibitions will extend Galileo's World across the University and beyond, including the National Weather Center, The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, the Fred Jones, Jr. Museum of Art, and select off-campus locations.  We will partner with many on campus departments for the successful event exhibition.

The George & Cecilia McGhee Collection

The George & Cecilia McGhee Collection

During the 2014 Spring semester, the University of Oklahoma acquired the George and Cecilia McGhee Collection from the McGhee Foundation of Middleburg, Virginia. Ambassador McGhee, originally from Waco, Texas, was a 1933 OU graduate and a Rhodes Scholar. His wife, Cecilia, was the daughter of OU graduate and legendary geologist and oilman Everette DeGolyer. 

The collection includes many rare items obtained during the McGhees’ extensive travels, as well as their personal correspondence and photographs. The items will become a part of University Libraries permanent collections and are housed in the Western History Collections, the History of Science Collections, and the Youngblood Energy Library. As part of the collection; OU Libraries received McGhee's personal correspondence during part of his State Department career.

McGhee’s career with the U.S. State Department gave him the opportunity to collect rocks and minerals from around the world, a passion that began when he was a child and continued while studying geology at OU.  The minerals he collected, as well as sea shells collected by Cecilia McGhee, will be valuable research specimens for students using the Youngblood Energy Library.

The gift also includes many artifacts the McGhee’s acquired during their travels, including: Chinese and Japanese artifacts, 12th century turquoise-glazed Syrian pottery, 15th century Islamic tile art, 4th century Roman pottery, and a large collection of Mesoamerican artifacts collected by his father-in-law in Mexico.

Acquiring World Class Chinese Translation Collections

Acquiring World Class Chinese Translation Collections

Noted Chinese to English translators Howard Goldblatt and Wolfgang Kubin have given their papers to the University of Oklahoma. The Goldblatt Collection includes many presentation copies signed by the author and his research materials, including his work on the Sandalwood Death by Mo Yon, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Kubin Collection includes part of his personal research as a poet and translator of Chinese literature. His papers will come to OU in a series of installments. 

These collections will be housed in the Western History Collections in Monnet Hall. 

Jonathan Stalling, deputy editor in chief of Chinese Literature Today, was instrumental in helping OU acquire these important collections.

Integrating Primary Sources into the Curriculum

Integrating Primary Sources into the Curriculum

In support of a university initiative to incorporate research methods into the curriculum, during the 2013-14 academic year, OU Libraries supported more than 1,500 undergraduate students enrolled in the history survey courses with instruction on how to access primary sources and use these sources to create new knowledge.

To support students enrolled in HIST 1483/1493 during the Fall 2013 semester, we held four open research sessions where more than 200 students received assistance with assignments requiring the use of primary sources. To better help students during the spring semester, we took a “train the trainer” approach and focused on building the awareness and skills of the teaching assistants for these courses so they could assist their students with the assignment. This method has proved more effective for helping students.

In addition, we have developed online tools to assist students with the assignments. Our general library guide related to finding historical primary sources has been accessed more than 4,000 times in the past year. Other guides related to specific sections of HIST 1483 and 1493 have also been viewed thousands of times this year. 

This initiative underscores the importance of having librarians familiar with our vast collections and multitude of resources who are able to develop tools and provide instruction to assist students tackling new research methods.

Opening of the Digitization Laboratory

Digitization Laboratory 

Technology has transformed information’s role in our lives. We reside at the very pulse of information transfer and consume information at a relentless pace. Younger generations are growing up leaving a digital footprint from the moment they are born. This poses a new challenge of keeping up with current technologies, but it also creates opportunities for imaginative execution, new resources, and collaborative work.

The Digitization Laboratory is a step into this new horizon. With state-of-the-art technology, we are able to digitize our extraordinary treasures, allowing us to multiply their impact on imaginations worldwide by making them globally accessible. Digitization of these treasures helps preserve the original artifacts while also broadening their availability to international scholars. 

The machines in this laboratory represent the need to adapt to current times, embracing all technology has to offer us. Not only does this help preserve the existing body of knowledge, it also serves as a showcase for the university’s commitment to excellence. 

By building tools and resources that increase access to our special collections, we are providing students the opportunity to use primary sources to create their own understanding of the world around them and to grapple with this knowledge from anywhere they have access to the Internet.