Special Collections, up on the fifth floor of McFarlin, is home to a truly special collection brought together by graduate assistants Jennifer Murphy, Amanda Vestal and Hannah Johnson. The “Weird and Wonky” exhibit is a showing of “some of the stranger items” in TU’s collections and will be open from now until March 26.
The exhibit includes donations from the Anna Kavan Papers, the Vann Family Archive, the Terlton Time Capsule of 1923, the Walt Whitman Ephemera and various other collections. Tulsa businessman John W. Schleppey donated several artifacts in 1975, including miniature playing cards for a dollhouse, a bag of rocks, a “Pleasure Chest of Steaks Club” pin, two embroidered textiles and an ornate chocolate box are on display. Items dating back to 1875 from the Vann Family, a Cherokee family who settled in Indian Territory Oklahoma in the mid-1800s, include a meat cleaver, a pair of children’s shoes, a box of dominoes and a set of dentures made from human teeth. The metal Terlton Time Capsule showcases the the June 26, 1923 issue of the Tulsa World and personal photographs from that same year. There is an extravagant 19th century sword detailing a naked woman atop an impressive dragon from the Ellis Clark Soper Collection. One of the most interesting parts of the exhibit comes from the Anna Kavan papers. Kavan, a heroin addict for most of her adult life, had been using the four used hypodermic needles that can be found on display now as staples to hold her papers together.
A large portion of the exhibit showcases circus memorabilia from the Lois Johnson Circus Collection. A ticket to a 1935 Ripley’s Believe it or Not show and an official tour list and ticket for a 1920s Ringling Brothers show are on display. There are also vintage visitor tickets to the circus and rule books for cooks and and performing employees of the Ringling Brothers and the Diano Brothers.
Writer memorabilia can also be found in this exhibit, including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s death certificate from 1940, Walt Whitman’s personalized envelopes and a ticket to his 1880 speech on Abraham Lincoln, and a giftset given from James Joyce to Paul Leon consisting of a blue and white striped tie and a porcelain lion.
Special Collections says that a good portion of these items “were haphazardly thrown in with large donations without much explanation for their presence.” Seeing these artifacts up close, from the relatively normal vintage finds to the strange and personal items, reminded me of the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” rule. The collection only took me about 20 minutes to look through and appreciate, so if you’re rushed for time between classes but want to experience the weirder things in life in a quiet and antiquated room, check the exhibit out Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.