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One man’s passion becomes Osage Nation Museum treasure

Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn comes from a family of collectors. His mother and father both enjoyed collecting. His father collected old bottles and books, and many covered the history of the Osage. His mother was a collector of Osage dishes and cooking tools and many remember that if she was at a local auction and she had her mind set on something, she was going home with it.

Red Corn himself became a collector in the early 1980’s and by the 1990’s his collection had taken off. His passion was collecting Osage items whenever the opportunity arose.

He obtained documents, books, photographs, negatives, and though he loved his collection and had spent many decades building it to an impressive size of more than 1,100 items, he donated the collection to the Osage Nation Museum.

“The museum has recently been improved. There is now a modern fire suppression system, and a section of the museum has been set aside as a secure area to house collections, not on display. I’ve been at this long enough to know how perishable documents and photographs are. They’ve been stored in my home or downtown for a long time, but in both cases, they were susceptible to fire, theft, or inadvertent water damage,” he said. “In past years I had considered some other museums and had contacted a few, but when the Nation began upgrading facilities here, there was no question where they should go.”

The rarest images in the collection are two photographs of Pawhuska taken between 1871 and 1875 of the Agent’s house and the Hiatt’s store, he said. Until those photographs, he had only seen sketches of those two buildings.

The public can catch a glimpse of the collection during the museum’s exhibit “Enduring Images: Osage Photographic Portraiture,” which opens on Feb. 23. Tribal members will have the opportunity to identify individuals in the photographs of the permanent collection. An opening reception will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the exhibit will run until Aug. 26.

Collection

Red Corn’s collection holds many unique pictures that were obtained by many types of photography. He donated tintype photos, glass negatives, printed photographs, photo postcards, vintage stereoview photographs. Stereoview photographs were used to create the illusion of depth in an image giving the images a 3D appearance.

Documents within the collection is equally impressive. Letters from the 1830’s from Osage agents, permits for non-Osages to live on the reservation, a record book from the Osage police from around 1895. There are court documents from the Osage Nation Supreme Court in the 1880’s and a handwritten tally of the vote count for Chief and Council in 1908.

“A fair amount of the collection I purchased at the estate auction of the first curator, Lillian Matthews. Those early Pawhuska photos were in the bottom of a box of newspapers that sold in the auction, and the person that bought them noticed I was bidding on photographs. I purchased them on the spot,” he said.

According to a press release, the collection is the largest donation the Osage Nation Museum has received since it opened in 1938.

“In terms of preservation, much of the material is already housed using preservation-quality material such as archival boxes and polyethylene photograph pages. We have ordered additional housing material to be used for this collection specifically,” said Hallie Winter, ONM Curator. “Much of this work is completed while the collection is being processed. Processing the collection includes data gathering, documentation, data entry, digitization, and of course, housing. The donated material will be housed in our secure collections storage room that was recently built at the ONM in 2015. Processing this donation from acceptance to permanent housing is labor intensive and may take museum staff up to two years to complete.”

Winter said that when objects are not on exhibit they rest in their secure collections storage area. This rest period allows objects to live in a secured space with limited opportunities for light, environmental, and handling damage with the added perk of additional security. Like the rest of the ONM’s photographic collection, the original photographs will be housed per museum standards while copies of the originals will be available for public viewing after processing is complete, she said.    

“I just hope the collection is a gift that keeps on giving. I was recently provided a studio portrait of my father from 1912, and I had never seen it before. He was about one [years old], taken with two older boys. A descendant of those older boys provided it,” Red Corn said. “I was in Nebraska and found a real photo postcard of my father, age 20 in front of a Fox Movietone truck at the Pawhuska Arbor in the 1930s. Seeing images like that for the first time is an experience that’s hard to describe. I hope these photographs allow other Osages to have that same feeling, a window into a past they did not know existed.”

For more information contact Hallie Winter at (918) 287-5222, email her at hwinter@osagenation-nsn.gov or visit the museum at 819 Grandview Avenue, Pawhuska, OK 74056.

The ONM’s collection is always open for research purposes. Research requests can be made by any member of the ONM staff, or by emailing Museum@osagenation-nsn.gov.


By

Tara Madden


Original Publish Date: 2017-01-22 00:00:00

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