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The Special Collections department supports the Metropolitan Library System mission by collecting, preserving and providing access to primary and secondary source materials that document the history and culture of Oklahoma – City, County, and state. Many wonderful additions and improvements are under development, including new archival & art collections, oral histories, and podcasts. Stay tuned!
Have you got interesting material to donate or share? We're interested! Contact us here.
The Oklahoma Collection is located in the Oklahoma Room on the 2nd floor of the Downtown Library. The collection primarily contains books about Oklahoma and Oklahomans, or those written by Oklahomans. The collection also includes maps, photos and other documents useful to the understanding of Oklahoma history.
The Oklahoma Room is open Sunday-Tuesday 2-5pm and Wednesday 4-8pm and by appointment. Please contact us with questions or to make an appointment.
The MLS Special Collections and Downtown Library are fortunate to house the Henia Ring Schiff Holocaust Resource Collection, a donation by the late Max Schiff in honor of his wife, a concentration camp survivor. The collection features some 1300 books, DVDs and CDs on the Holocaust and its Jewish, German and Polish contexts. Its intended use as an educational tool is being fulfilled on a daily basis; HRC circulation is above-average among ranges. Its use group runs the gamut, from high school students doing research to adults curious about what happened. The collection is regularly being increased and updated as new materials become available. A rotating display focuses on particular aspects of the Holocaust experience. This is a circulating collection available for check-out.
Currently under development, the John M. Dunning III Collection is one of the largest known collections of Oklahoma City photographs, documents and memorabilia. Over 10,000 items tell the story of Oklahoma City through words and images in lively detail. Portions of the Dunning Collection visit other MLS libraries through traveling exhibits. This collection was purchased through the generosity of the Friends of the Metropolitan Library System and the Russum estate. It is currently under development and only a portion of it is available for review; please contact Special Collections staff for inquiries.
A collection of pictures and essays that illustrate the history of Central Oklahoma. You will find photographs, art works, primary source materials, and essays that tell the story of the people who have called Oklahoma home.
The Stewart Collection features the professional papers of longtime Oklahoma City civil rights leader and NAACP president Jimmy Stewart. Highlights include photos and letters of notable leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr and Thurgood Marshall, documents related to protests and desegregation and other business of the NAACP during the Civil Rights Era. This collection is currently undergoing digitization but is available at the Oklahoma Room in the Downtown Library.
In 1934, the federal government began loaning or allocating movable artworks created under the New Deal art programs to public agencies and nonprofit institutions. In both its scope and the number of artists employed, the Federal Art Project was the largest of these programs overseen by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Seeking to put as many unemployed Americans back to work as possible and to buoy the morale of citizens, the FAP hired hundreds of artists who collectively created more than 100,000 paintings and murals as well as over 18,000 sculptures to be found in municipal buildings, schools, and hospitals in all of the 48 states. Additionally, the program hoped to foster the role of the arts in public life and to bring the artist closer to the everyday, American experience. These works invoked familiar images that spoke of shared values and American progress, including technological wonders, fertile farmlands, small town life, and big city vibrancy. Special Collections houses 124 prints of works created by WPA artists during the FAP years (1935-42).
Between 1929 and 1952 C. Szwedzicki, a publisher in Nice, France, produced six portfolios of North American Indian art. The publications were edited by American scholars Oscar Brousse Jacobson, Hartley Burr Alexander and Kenneth Milton Chapman. Many of the images were published as pochoir prints which have an appearance similar to that of silk screening. The North American Indian Works Collection is a catalogue of 77 prints representing original works by 20th Century American Indian artists.
While using some manner of the Kiowa flat style, Blackbear Bosin also employed European techniques of illusion and surrealism. This combination contributed to his work's uniqueness and soon earned the artist widespread acclaim as a traditional painter. Depicting his people in the same way that tribal storytellers told their histories, his art reflects both spiritual and tribal history as well as Indian mythology. The Blackbear Bosin Collection consists of a limited edition of eight prints representing some of the artist’s original sketches.
Art was always a part of Charles Marion Russell's life. Born March 19, 1864, in St. Louis, Missouri, he developed an intense interest in the Wild West and would spend hours reading tales of legendary figures, drawing sketches and molding clay figures of animals. This interest would become his lifelong passion, inspiring him to create more than 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Indians, and landscapes set in the Western United States. The Metropolitan Library owns a collection of 10 limited edition prints representing the artist’s original pen and ink drawings.
For over fifty years Lois Lenski pursued her professional career as an illustrator and author of books for children. During that time, she illustrated some fifty books for other authors, and wrote and illustrated nearly 100 of her own. Lenski's writing included picture books and stories for young children as well as intermediate works for older children and young adults. Although she primarily wrote prose, Lenski also published books of poetry, songs, and plays for children. Lois Lenski's life was a unique balance of family and career. Her close family and small-town upbringing provided a personal foundation and served as a strong influence in her writing and career. The Lois Lenski Collection at the Metropolitan Library consists of seven original illustrations from Boomtown Boy, the author and illustrator’s rich portrait of life during the Oklahoma oil boom.
Just getting started on climbing your family tree? Have a brick wall to break through? Consultations with genealogy librarian Lisa are available. Contact us to set up an appointment.
The Special Collections department can provide limited research assistance across a broad spectrum of local and state history. Send us your questions.
Special Collections works with local historians and writers’ groups to help them present and circulate their work through Pressbooks, Biblioboard and SELF-e. Pressbooks enables writers to upload their work and create an actual e-book. Or, they can create their books directly in Pressbooks, including style and general appearance. Once completed, authors can then submit their works to Biblioboard and SELF-e, Library Journal’s system of selecting books and providing them to libraries around the country.