Zarrow Collection at OSU Library provides new way to appreciate art
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
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Every collection tells a story. Piece by piece, collectors carefully curate their passion over years or even decades, often leaving us with a fascinating and in-depth look into a subject.
For Jack and Maxine Zarrow, their passion led to a remarkable collection of Native American art.
The OSU Library and OSU Museum of Art now share the gift of the Maxine and Jack Zarrow Collection, which includes more than 500 works of art primarily from Oklahoma and the Southwest. The collection is composed of paintings, mixed media pieces and sculptures by Native American artists. The oldest dated work is from 1883.
This special selection of artwork provides new opportunities for research, exhibitions and interdisciplinary learning experiences. Now — through the new online portal found at zarrow.library.okstate.edu — students, researchers and art enthusiasts anywhere can tour the collection virtually and gain insight into the method behind amassing such a collection.
“Viewers of the collection will be able to appreciate the individual works of art, but they will also be able to gain insights into the breadth of Native American art styles, the evolution of trends in the market and changes over time in the work of specific artists,” said Sheila Johnson, dean of libraries.
Jack Zarrow was a native Tulsan; Maxine Foreman, originally from Texas, moved to Tulsa after the couple married in 1947. Together they founded the Maxine and Jack Zarrow Family Foundation, which is committed to transformational civic projects, especially those that seek to better engage those with limited access to inspirational arts and cultural resources.
Maxine and Jack built the foundation to continue the Jewish tradition of tzedakah, or righteous behavior. The couple’s philanthropic legacy has left a lasting impact not just at OSU but throughout the state.
The goal of the Zarrow gift was to establish a teaching collection that could be widely available for classes or individual students and researchers. Library archivists realized the Zarrow materials offered an opportunity to create a dynamic online experience, not just for the OSU community but for students and scholars around the world.
Thanks to detailed record keeping, the Zarrow family provided extensive descriptions and photos of each of the works. The library’s team was able to use that information to build a virtual tour of the collection. Graduate research associate Janna Rogers worked with David Peters from the archives — as well as Juliana Nykolaiszyn, Megan Macken and Brandon Katzir from the library’s Digital Resources and Discovery Services — to create the online experience, which is now available for the public.
“The Zarrows’ art collection was extensive and well-documented,” Johnson said. “Having this sort of detail available gives site visitors a much better understanding of how one set of art lovers built this significant collection.”
The portal is designed to engage both casual visitors and serious researchers. While visiting the website, you can browse through the full range of the works or search for a particular artist, style or format. The entire Zarrow catalog is represented so visitors have a comprehensive view of the couple’s collecting activity, although a few of the pieces displayed on the site are not in OSU holdings. Location information will be available in the portal soon.
The data associated with each work makes the collection portal a valuable tool for scholars. The descriptive information can be browsed through a word cloud visualization or downloaded as a data set so researchers can analyze collecting patterns or a particular artist’s evolution.
The Zarrow Collection portal will continue to expand. The resource’s designers plan to integrate other unique collections held by the OSU Library. For example, the “Oklahoma Native Artists Oral History Project” features over a hundred video interviews with Native American artists, including many who are highlighted in the Zarrow Collection. This complementary material will soon be cross-referenced on the portal to provide additional insight into the artists’ personal histories and creative processes.
Moving forward, the portal will also serve as a model for showcasing other art collections held by OSU such as the Charles Little Collection. This collection of Native American Art was gifted to the OSU Museum by a former OSU agriculture economics faculty member. The Little Collection spans from the 1930s to present with a focus on Plains and Southwest paintings.
Photos by: Nina Thornton
Story by: Bonnie Cain-Wood | STATE Magazine