For the first time, historians, museum representatives, and other organizations dedicated to historic preservation gathered at Northeastern State University for an epic experience that included speakers, booths with information, and people to scan and preserve personal history.

Paving the Way: Green Country's Historical and Cultural Preservation Initiative 2019 began Friday morning and ends Saturday evening. The community was encouraged to bring documents and photos to be scanned at no cost, and receive a thumb drive of the scanned items, which were also returned to the owner. The John Vaughn Library at NSU will also keep copies for special collections and archives.

Janice Battaglia drove from Tulsa with old photographs of her great-great-grandmother who had been orphaned at age 2 and lived in a Pawhuska Indian Reservation. She sat patiently while the photos were scanned, studying them one by one as she waited, especially one of a grandmother she hoped to learn more about.

"There's a lot of history in my family," said Battaglia. "There's no one really tracking our history. My uncles were all World War II veterans who went into oil drilling when they came home from the war. My great-great-grandmother was called Delia Mae, but her tombstone said Dilly Mae. She died in 1917."

Battaglia said that it was good to have all the resources being offered in one place.

Dalton Martin, staff at the NSU Broken Arrow library, scanned the photos for Battaglia.

"It's been pretty good. I have experience scanning and digitizing books, photos and documents. This collects historical material and a lot of people can then see it," said Martin. "We have a lot of historical information for people to share with family and people. There's a lot of history in this area."

Administrative Archivist with the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Jan Davis, drove from Norman to participate in the event, and was impressed with the turnout.

"This gives organizations that are collecting and sharing community history an opportunity to come together to share their resources with the public," said Davis. "Digital archiving allows people who have old photographs an opportunity to digitize them so that they can preserve the images and easily share with others."

Davis was thrilled that Brenda Bradford, head of Special Collections and Archives for NSU's John Vaughan Library, has the support of the university to apply for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant and received it.

"It's a highly significant grant. OU and OSU have applied several times and not received it," said Davis. "Receiving the grant is recognition of the unique history of this area."

October is National Archives month, said Davis said this was an opportunity to share with the public important historical collections and to remind people to preserve their own family history.

One of the event's organizer is Dr. Lori Birrell, associate dean for Special Collections at the University of Arkansas, also spoke earlier Friday.

"This is a wonderful event, not only for the local community, but also the other cultural heritage institutions around the region," said Birrell. "I was reminded our undergrad students are interested is these topics, and why it's important to have this at a university so they can participate, as well."

Friday speakers began with Ernestine Berry, director of the United Keetoowah Band John Hair Cultural Center and Museum, and included John Horsechief and Kimberly Lollis-McCauley, Osage Nation Museum and Cultural Center; Leslie Higgins, director of education, U.S. Marshals Museum; Dr. Christine Hallman, associate professor of geography at NSU; Laurel Lamb, curator of the University of Arkansas Museum; Daniel Culp and Zachary Qualls, Gilcrease Museum; Bobby Braly, executive director of Historic Cane Hill; and Victoria Sheffler, retired NSU archivist.

Local history expert Shirley Pettengill was looking at a book from Reed Culver with friends Donna Clark and Glenita Guthrie who is with the Talbot Library Museum in Colcord and the Goingsnake Trail of Tears Historical Society.

"We specialize in Cherokee history and genealogy in northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas," said Clark. "I like seeing old friends and visiting the seminars; they're very interesting, especially Ernestine Berry. And I don't want to miss Vicki Sheffler tomorrow."

Indian Territory Genealogical and Historical Society volunteers were assisting visitors with genealogy questions.

Sherelene Ross Pratt, volunteer and board member, said she was "bit by the genealogy bug" after she discovered she was related to the Chief John Ross family. She was on hand to help people looking for ancestors, something she and other volunteers do for free every Monday, 2-5 p.m., in the Ballenger Room at the NSU library.

"I enjoy helping people do their lineage, connect with their ancestry, and I'm an advocate for the Cherokee Nation genealogy," she said.

Participating agencies and organizations that set up on site included: Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Hunter's Home, Cherokee Capital Chapter of Daughters of the Revolutionary War, Bacone Library, Goingsnake District Heritage Association, Wahzhazhe Cultural Center, the War Memorial Park, Muscogee Creek Nation Library/Archives, NSU Center for Tribal Studies, and Metropolitan Library System’s Special Collections Department.

Museums included the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, The Gilcrease Museum, Talbot Library and Museum, Dobson Museum Ottawa County Historical Society, NSU Native American Support Center, and the Adair County Historical and Genealogical Museum

What's next

Paving the Way: Green Country's Historical and Cultural Preservation Initiative 2019 continues Saturday, Sept. 28, 10 a.m.-6 p.m at the NSU University Center in Tahlequah.

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