The Oklahoma Historical Records Advisory Board has awarded Gilcrease Museum a $6,000 grant to fund a University of Tulsa Museum Science and Management graduate student to digitize a unique collection of 18th and 19th-century Native American photographs.
The Gilcrease Library and Archive collection contains more than 35,000 photographs including 1,695 photographs that pertain to Native American tribes in Oklahoma. The photographs have been acquired since the museum’s opening in 1949 and developed into a significant independent collection over the years. These distinctive photographs provide a glimpse into tribal life and customs after removal to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and visually illustrate the process of adaptation to European customs juxtaposed with attempts to retain cultural identities. Approximately 40 percent of the photos are one-of-a-kind, unduplicated images that do not exist in any other collections.
Prominent individuals with Oklahoma ties featured in this collection include Cherokee Chief John Ross, Principal Chief during the Removal Period and after (1828-1866); Choctaw Chief Peter Pitchlynn, political leader from 1830 through election as Principal Chief (1864-1866) and after; and the important Creek Artist Acee Blue Eagle, to name a few.
The project encourages scholarship by allowing for broader sharing of this rare, Oklahoma-based collection, which will be accessible through Gilcrease’s online collection portal (collections.gilcrease.org). The project also enables teaching fundamental digitization skills to the next generation of museum professionals by training a graduate student from TU in this increasingly important area of digital curation. TU and Gilcrease both benefit: The graduate student will have a hands-on educational experience with a world-renowned museum collection, and a portion of the museum’s photo archive will be digitized for broad scholarly use.
The Oklahoma Historical Records Advisory Board grant is funded by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission, a statutory body affiliated with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that supports a wide range of activities to preserve, publish and encourage the use of documentary sources created in every medium ranging from quill pen to computer, relating to the history of the United States.