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Soil Conservation on the Southern Plains: Home

About the Collection


The southern Great Plains are one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, but our relationship with this environment has been filled with conflicts and challenges.

Beginning with homestead settlement reaching further west into the short grass prairies the fragile bonds of soil, moisture, and vegetation were thrown out of balance with a dramatic increase in cultivation during and after World War I. Inappropriate agricultural management of these resources combined with reduced rainfall led to the devastating Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

The United States Department of Agriculture created the Soil Conservation Service in 1935 to assist Great Plains residents with overcoming this ecological disaster. Faculty members and former students of Oklahoma State University, know at the time as Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College, were instrumental in the recovery activities utilizing their research experiences, results, and efforts.

This collection of Glass Lantern Slides, produced in cooperation with the Soil Conservation Service, reveal both the impact of the dust storms, and the innovations and responses utilized in recovery. These slides were discovered in several old boxes and donated to the Archives Department located in the Edmon Low Library at Oklahoma State University. These images capture and record part of this environmental story and the human response to it.