In late 2017, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)* awarded Gilcrease Museum a highly competitive Museums for America grant. The three-year, $277,566 grant will support the cataloging and imaging of 1,500 American Indian ethnographic items under stewardship of Gilcrease Museum. These collection items will be added to the digital collections database creating educational opportunities through online access of items related to the cultures and life of the indigenous peoples living in Northeast Oklahoma, specifically the Osage, Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) Nations.
This award is the second consecutive IMLS grant presented to Gilcrease. In 2014, Gilcrease was awarded $150,000 to digitize the 3,500 pieces of the Harry J. Lemley collection of Mississippian pottery. The larger collection was purchased in 1955 and is now viewable online for the first time with six digital images and a complete catalog record for each vessel. The project also created a Distance Catalog Interface, which allows contemporary tribal members to provide more cultural information on each piece, allowing the museum to learn and share more information with online collection users.
IMLS funding at Gilcrease has enabled museum staff to make more of the ethnographic collection accessible than what the current facility allows. Like the previous award, this IMLS grant will increase accessibility to the museum’s collection through the Gilcrease Online Collections website and the recently updated open-storage experiences in the Kravis Discovery Center, an anthropology-based, interactive, visible storage exhibition gallery.
The items selected for this project, dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, represent the cultures and history of Oklahoma-based tribes to which many current Oklahoma residents trace all or part of their ancestry. Currently, one quarter of all federally recognized tribal people in the U.S. live in Oklahoma, numbering more than 500,000. The project will expand upon the nearly 4,000 archeological items currently documented and included in the digital collections catalog and will include clothing and regalia, cradle boards, bandolier bags, baskets, pipes, dolls, rattles, drums, bonnets and ballgame sticks. Where known, full catalog information will be added, including identification, measurements, creator, culture, date, period, place, provenance, classification, object type, materials and techniques, iconography and expert commentary.
Gilcrease Museum anticipates a variety of audiences from museum visitors to millions of people worldwide will have access through the online collection.
*The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s approximately 120,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. The IMLS mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning and cultural and civic engagement. Its grant-making, policy development and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow on Facebook and Twitter.