The adjourned session of the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Historical Society was held on Saturday, June 25, 1921. Practically the only business transacted was the consideration of the report of the committee on the revision of the constitution and by-laws of the Society. The revised constitution and by-laws as reported by the committee, were adopted without change. The meeting was well attended. The new constitution and by-laws will be printed and copies will be furnished to each member of the Society.
One of the most encouraging features of the work of the Oklahoma Historical Society is the increasing amount of research work that is being done in the material contained in its collections. The amount of research work which has been done in the library of the Society during the year 1921 exceeds that of any previous year of its existence by several hundred per cent. This fact emphasizes the necessity of having the documentary material in the collections of the Society catalogued and made readily available for such use. The practical value of such a collection is seriously impaired unless it can be made available for instant reference by patronizing research workers and students as well as to facilitate the work of the Society’s own officials and employes.
When the collections of the Oklahoma Historical Society were removed to the quarters assigned to it in the basement of the new Capitol, in December, 1917, it was believed that it was thus afforded ample room for expansion for a period of at least six or eight or, possibly, ten years. At the end of four years, it finds its quarters becoming congested. A thousand volumes of newspaper files recently received from the bindery call for additional stacks in a room which has been pronounced overcrowded by the state fire marshal. In addition to this, there are many tons of books and other documentary material that are boxed and packed away in a store room where the atmospheric conditions are far from being ideal for the proper care and preservation of such property. Space for
the exhibition of museum material is also becoming scarce and, even if additional museum cases were available (which they are not), the floor space for the proper placing of the same would be very limited. A proper and reasonable housing for the Oklahoma Historical Society and its collections promises to be a live issue henceforth.
Among the changes made as the result of the adoption of the revised constitution by the Oklahoma Historical Society was that of fixing the date of the annual meeting of the Society on the first Tuesday in February instead of the second Tuesday in January, it having been found that the earlier date conflicted with gubernatorial inaugurations and suffered in popular interest by reason of its closeness to the assembling and organization of the regular biennial legislative sessions. The next annual meeting will therefore be held on Tuesday, February 7, 1922. For the first time in the history of the Society, a formal program is being prepared to be offered on that occasion. With the material increase in the membership of the Society and with indications of an even greater augmentation in the immediate future, its annual meetings will assume added interest in the public mind as well as to its members.
Although the total appropriations for all state purposes, made by the legislature of 1921, was approximately twelve per cent greater than that of the Legislature of 1919, the appropriation for the support of the Oklahoma Historical Society was cut over forty per cent below the amount appropriated for its maintenance during the preceding two-year period. The only explanation that has been offered is that the appropriations of practically all of the other state institutions were also reduced below the estimates submitted. While this is true, practically all of the other state institutions were asking for greatly increased appropriations and none of them suffered much if any reduction below the appropriations respectively made for their support by the preceding Legislature and, indeed, several of them received appropriations which showed generous increases above those which were made two
years earlier. As a result, the Historical Society, had to reduce its working force and cut the modest stipends of employes who were continued in its service and it has also been forced to discontinue the cataloguing of its library and documentary material. The state historical societies of other states which rank with Oklahoma in population averaged twice as many staff employes as the Oklahoma Historical Society had before it was forced to make the reduction already mentioned and none of them have any three per cent gross production tax on oil and gas, neither have any of them as generous endowment provisions for public education as that which is possessed by Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Historical Society has been modest in its estimates for the support of the work assigned to it. It has been a party to no combine and no game of grab. Yet, seemingly, for the very reason that it has not engaged in the mad scramble for excessive appropriations, it has not received the consideration to which its functions and its place in the life of the state justly entitle it. That the time has arrived when it should insist upon fairer treatment and freedom from unjust discrimination in the matter of adequate provision for the proper prosecution of its work, there can be no question.
Active local historical societies have been organized and are being maintained at Muskogee and Tulsa. The Muskogee Historical Society is assembling the beginnings of an interesting and instructive historical museum in the public library of that city. On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the opening of the Comanche and Kiowa country to homestead settlement, there was organized at Lawton an old settlers’ association, the scope of the activities of which include in part those of a local historical society. All three of these organizations give promise of active co-operation with the Oklahoma Historical Society as a recognized institution of the state. There is abundant room for a number of other local historical societies in the state and the officers and directors of the Oklahoma Historical Society will be glad to lend their aid and encouragement to any movements to such an end. The work of organizing and maintaining such an institution, locally, always calls for a large measure of unselfishness and public spirit on the part of a few devoted men and women but, in the long run, the effort is well worth while.