Southern Nazarene University Archives Awarded Oklahoma Heritage Preservation Grant

Southern Nazarene University Archives Awarded Oklahoma Heritage Preservation Grant

The Southern Nazarene University (SNU) Fred Floyd Archives is one of 43 organizations selected to receive a $12,500 grant during the inaugural year of the Oklahoma Heritage Preservation Grant Program of the Oklahoma Historical Society. 

“Since 1899, SNU has provided academic excellence for students from all over the world, but especially here in Oklahoma and we are grateful for the Oklahoma Historical Society’s investment in our ability to share this story,” said SNU president, Dr. Keith Newman.  

SNU’s project will create a comprehensive plan for storage of archival collections and relocate holdings to increase accessibility and usage. Currently, archives are dispersed in multiple locations and the searchability of the collection is limited. The SNU Archives has increased its collection of artwork, artifacts and digital media, and now hopes to create better archival storage. The grant will fund storage materials, preservation supplies, environmental monitoring equipment and staff time. The Archives will be providing $1,250 towards cost-sharing for this project.

“This project will provide a strong foundation for increasing accessibility for students and patrons in the future,” said Julie Lyles, SNU Archives Director.

The SNU Archives was established in 1982 after an SNU employee found a document relating to the founding of the Nazarene church in a flea market and determined that students at SNU needed to have access to the history of the school and its parent denomination. In 1985, the fledgling collection was designated as Fred Floyd Archives after a history professor who donated a large amount of his personal collection to the archives. The Paul Gray Reading Room in the SNU Library includes both office and exhibit space. A full-time Archives Director is assisted by a community volunteer and student interns. 

The SNU Archives are used by both student and community researchers. One current scholarly project using Archives material is a book chapter on Mattie Mallory by Dr. Heather Clemmer, who is focusing on the time period of 1909 to 1920 and the relocation of the Oklahoma Orphanage from downtown Oklahoma to the present Bethany site of The Children’s Center.

SNU students in the History Department, and with Social Studies majors in the Education Department, are required to utilize resources in the Archives to complete major research assignments for their Historical Methods course annually. Student-selected topics have included the campus during WWII, the campus during the Civil Rights movement, and architecture on campus. SNU History Department majors also work as interns in the Archives.

The SNU Archives collections of 15,000 items includes books and other bound volumes, maps, newspapers, manuscripts and holographs, framed and unframed artwork, architectural artifacts, sculpture, sound recordings and early moving images, and a substantial collection of approximately 4,000 slides and photos. The Archives also curates two small collections of art that are displayed on campus:  Western art paintings and African-themed sculpture.

The Archives collection focuses on key themes in the identity of central Oklahoma: settlement patterns, transportation, industry and business, education, and healthcare. Interesting items in the Archives include

  • local research material by a professional historian from the area that traces the history of the city back to land originally given to the Creek tribe after their post-Civil War removal
  • letters from the Dust Bowl era
  • an original copy of the New York Herald newspaper of Saturday, April 15, 1865, featuring an article about Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on the previous day.
  • 195 rare books, including historical hymnals and theological books
  • photographs documenting  the Lake Overholser Bridge on historic Route 66 west of Oklahoma City, opened in 1925 using new steel truss technology—subsequently crossed by thousands of travelers making their way along the Mother Road from Chicago to California during the Great Depression
  • photos, paintings, and tokens from the Interurban electrified streetcar that ran from Bethany into downtown Oklahoma City from 1903 to 1947.

The SNU Archives is free for use and open to the public during fall and spring academic terms on Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with meetings or appointments arranged on other days when the Library building is open. Collections may be accessed electronically through the SNU Library catalog and the Wesleyan Holiness Digital Library (whdl.org). Copying, scanning, and printing services are available.

The Oklahoma Heritage Preservation Grant Program distributed a total of just over $410,000 in grant funds, with projects ranging from collections care and exhibit development to strategic planning and educational programming. “We are very pleased with how well this first cycle of the Oklahoma Heritage Preservation Grant Program has gone,” said Nicole Harvey, grants administrator. “Both the variety of projects and the number of applications submitted show that this program is not only necessary but a game-changer for the future of collecting, preserving and sharing Oklahoma history in local communities across the state.”

The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.

By Dr. Gwen Ladd Hackler

(Photo courtesy of SNU)

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