Western History Collections in Norman Keep Wild West on Record

By Hensley, Staci Elder | THE JOURNAL RECORD, May 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Western History Collections in Norman Keep Wild West on Record


Hensley, Staci Elder, THE JOURNAL RECORD


"It would be difficult for someone to come in and see the resources we have here and not be captured by it."

That's how Donald Dewitt sums up the Western History Collections, a priceless collection of more than a million manuscripts, photos and historical archives that is the envy of universities around the nation. Dewitt has served as curator for the collections on the University of Oklahoma's main campus for nearly 21 years.

Used primarily as a research tool for OU students, the collections also offer information for historians, authors, genealogists, private citizens, state employees and even restaurant and business owners. Many of the latter, Dewitt said, decorate their establishments with copies of the more than 1 million photographic images and negatives in the Photographic Archives. Interest has been even greater, he said, in light of Oklahoma's ongoing centennial celebrations.

The Western History Collections include three divisions, which encompass one of the world's largest depositories of information on the American West.

The best known and most heavily used are the Photographic Archives, which include works by many noted frontier photographers.

The second division, officially known as the Manuscripts- University Archives Division, contains thousands of manuscripts related to the history and culture of the American West and American Indians. Included are personal and official correspondence, diaries, journals, literary manuscripts, business records and many other forms of documentation.

The Library Division is the third major collection, and it contains more than 80,000 volumes. Its nucleus, the original Frank Phillips Collection, is devoted to the history, ethnography and prehistory of American Indians and the comprehensive history of the American West. The division also has 11 other named collections that complement its general scope. They are the Glenn P. Bradley, E.E. Dale, Alan Farley, Patricia Grass, John Morris and Fred Schonwald collections, all relating to Oklahoma, American Indians and Western frontier history; the Norman Brillhart Collection on the life and career of General George A. Custer; the Henry Bass Collection of Abraham Lincoln literature and the Civil War; the Mr. …

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