OKLAHOMA CITY — Cultural artifacts and natural specimens collected during world travels have found a new home at the University of Oklahoma.
Ancient Roman pottery, North American stone ax heads from the Middle Ages and a three-tiered Chinese picnic box from the 1700s are among the objects in the vast George C. and Cecilia McGhee Collection.
George McGhee, a millionaire oilman and career diplomat, collected the many items during world travels with his wife, Cecilia. A sampling of the collection, brought to OU in February from the McGhee Foundation in Middleburg, Virginia, is on display at OU’s Western History Collections in Monnet Hall, the Oklahoman reported Sunday.
“It started as a preview for the university community, but transitioned into a public exhibit that will be on display into early fall,” said John Lovett, director of Special Collections and curator of the Western History Collections.
There are Byzantine crosses dating from 400 to 1100 and a Hebrew Bible with an ornate silver binding that depicts the 12 tribes of Israel and King David playing a harp. A turquoise-glazed Syrian bowl from the 1200s is nearly as colorful as the many rocks and minerals.
The complete donation — photographs, books, papers, art, artifacts, fossils — is still being researched and cataloged.
Elsbeth Dowd, registrar at OU’s Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, says the significant donation broadens the educational experience the university can offer students and the public.
Her favorite object is a 200-pound fossil of a Crinoid, a marine animal commonly called the “sea lily.” The creature appears to be a flower until closer inspection.
“It’s a remarkable example of a large invertebrate fossil,” Dowd said.
George McGhee graduated from OU with a degree in geology in 1933, earned a Rhodes scholarship and received a doctorate from Oxford University in 1937. During World War II, he enlisted in the Navy. He spent many years after the war working for the U.S. State Department.
“The family took great interest in the natural world, the cultural world and the history of the places they went,” Dowd said.
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