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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 3, No. 3
September, 1925
QUARTERLY REPORT OF THE SECRETARY
OF THE
OKLAHOMA HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
AUGUST 4, 1925.

Page 240

The activities of the secretary’s office during the past three months have been rather out of the ordinary, for the reason that most of the same have been off the beaten track of routine work. A few days after the last quarterly meeting, the Executive Committee held a meeting for the consideration of the proposed archaeological work, which matter had been referred to it by the Board of Directors. At this meeting of the Executive Committee, the secretary was authorized and directed to attend the annual meeting of the American Association of Museums, of which this Society has been a member for several years past. This meeting was held at St. Louis, May 16th to 21st and your secretary was present at each session throughout.

The American Association of Museums was organized nearly twenty years ago—in December, 1905—since which time it has performed increasingly useful service in the lines to which its activities are dedicated. Practically all of the leading museums of the country have been or are now affiliated with it. The practical benefits of such an association are more real than apparent at first thought. Museums, like other institutions, develop from modest beginnings and pass through stages of crudeness and inefficiency. The development to the higher stages of efficiency and usefulness is greatly facilitated by the interchange of ideas concerning museum organization, administration and management, the proper selection of museum material and exhibits, the proper housing and installation of the same and the rational control and use of museums.

Most of the sessions of this annual meeting of the Association of Museums were general but several of them were divided into sections. Each section was composed of representatives of museums of a particular class, such, for instance as natural science and biology, commercial, historical,

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municipal, educational, etc. These sectional and group meetings afforded much greater opportunity for gaining information in special lines than would have been possible in the general sessions in which all or nearly all of the delegate and representatives might be present. Among the most interesting themes which were on the program for discussion before the general sessions, your secretary found none of more pertinent or practical interest than those of museum architecture, the proper lighting of museums, etc. This naturally raises in our minds the question as to whether our own Society might not be in danger of making a mistake it asking an appropriation for the erection of a building when as yet, our own ideas and ideals as to what is wanted or really needed are still somewhat nebulous. In this connection it is worthy of remark that there are several institution of a kindred character in this country which are housed it structures erected especially for their use which are manifestly so poorly planned and so ill adapted to the purpose for which they were supposedly designed as to cause the present administrative management to wish that they had never been built. If the Oklahoma Historical Society should secure an appropriation for the erection of such a building without having at least a tentative plan worked out for the same in advance, and if the selection of an architect for the designing of the proposed building is left to the same means and influences which generally prevail in the matter of building; for other public institutions in Oklahoma, then it, too, might have occasion to regret that it had not acted more advisedly.

One of the most pertinent papers read before the meeting, at least from the view-point of the historical society worker, was the one of Dr. Arthur C. Parker, director of the Municipal Museum of Rochester, New York, and formerly anthropologist of the New York State Museum, at Albany whose theme was the organization and development of the historical museum. The curator of the museum of a certain state historical society, who was from farther west than any others in attendance at the meeting with the single exception of your secretary, took serious exceptions to this paper asserting that "someone is always slamming the historical societies." However, your secretary, far from finding fault with Doctor Parker’s statements, frankly conceded that his

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dsecription[sic] of historical society museum collections which contain much haphazard, irrelevant, junk-shop, curio material which is totally lacking in historical significance or in historical value to the particular institution having custody thereof, would be fairly descriptive of conditions in our own collections. Inasmuch as Doctor Parker, who by the way is an Iroquois Indian of distingushed[sic] ancestry, is to be rightly regarded as one of the leading men in his line as a museum expert and as we have reason to be particularly interested in the subject of his timely discussion, I secured a copy of his paper and am having several additional copies made so that the members of this Board may have the privilege of reading it.

Your secretary was a stranger when he went to that meeting, for all of the rest of the people in attendance were strangers to him, though he soon found new friendships among them. Moreover, he quickly realized that he was among the technically trained members of a real profession, while he, concerned more or less with the responsibilities of the development and administrative control and care of a museum, was only an untrained pioneer. So he took it that he was there primarily to learn—to see rather than be seen and to listen attentively rather than be heard. As the result of it all, he gathered much in the way of information and also in the element of inspiration. Among the new friendships formed there might be mentioned especially, Dr. Arthur C. Parker, already mentioned; Dr. Clark Wissler, curator of the department of anthropology in the American Museum of Natural History, New York City; Doctor Bingham, superintendent of the Buffalo Historical Society, Buffalo, N. Y., and Dr. William C. Mills, director of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, Columbus.

Immediately after returning from St. Louis, preparations for going to the field and beginning active operations in the way of archaeological excavations in Delaware County were begun. Not all of the volunteer helpers who had promised to go with the expedition were able to go when the time came and several others had to defer starting until their work for the college or university year could be completed. When the expedition arrived at Grove, it went into camp at the cave, on the bank of Honey Creek, nearly three miles

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distant. Another and smaller camp was established at the mound, near the mouth of Elk River, distant some seven or eight miles from the cave, later on, when more help became available. Workers were changed, at intervals, from one camp to the other, so that all volunteer workers had opportunity to study two very distinct prehistoric cultures, personally and at first hand. Much of the work, especially at the mound, was performed under trying conditions, with the weather uniformly hot and sultry.

The mound having been partially excavated by the owner of the land and having been surrepitiously[sic] invaded and looted of part of its contents by a vandal who acted at the instigation of the commercial collector above mentioned, the expedition only found about a month’s work to be done in finishing its excavation. As no notes or memoranda had been made of the contents previously found and removed, it was doubly important that an accurate record be made of the results of the Society’s work on this ancient earth-work, as it was in quest of definite information quite as much as it was for specimens of the handiwork of prehistoric man. All of this has been done, with results that may rightly be regarded as important and that will be made the basis of papers yet to be written and published by the Society as a part of its contribution to the world’s knowledge of such themes.

The cave proved a surprise to the expedition in several ways. In the first place, one chamber which had been visited and inspected at the time of the excavation of the mouth of the cave, in 1916, was found to have been sealed shut by a drift of clay which hides even the entrance through which access was then gained. On the other hand, a much larger chamber was found, with a much greater deposit. Entrance was gained by driving a tunnel under a low hanging roof. Subsequently, a new opening into this larger chamber was excavated from the outside. The results of these efforts have been well repaid by the rare and beautifully wrought specimens of ancient arts and crafts which have been unearthed. That there may be other chambers in the same labyrinth of caverns, which served as domiciles in ancient times, is not improbable.

Having opened up more work than could be completed

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within the allotted time and with the allotted funds, your secretary asked the Executive Committee for permission to continue the work temporarily, pending an effort to raise funds from other sources for the purpose of making possible its continuance for a much longer period. A campaign has been organized for this purpose but, as in other matters, it has to proceed slowly in the summer time. There is much other work to be done in the same line in that region. The owner of the land on which the mound stood is quite anxious that the Society should undertake the excavation of another mound distant but three or four rods from the one already excavated. It is in the form of a truncated pyramid, approximately sixty feet square, setting square with the cardinal points and ten feet high. Of course, if funds can be raised for the purpose of continuing the work, as it is reasonable to expect they may be, your secretary can give the matter but a limited amount of personal attention, as the amount of office work will preclude anything more than that. However, the work already done has developed the fact that we have two young men in Oklahoma who have the aptitude, the interest and the inclination for such work and that they are possessed of boundless enthusiasm and tireless energy with a spirit of devotion which cannot be questioned, either of whom is capable of carrying on such a line of investigation. So the Society stands to gain by the effort, whether its secretary can find time to go into the field to direct the effort in person or not.

The specimens secured from the mound and from the cave are still at Grove, as we promised to put the collection on display before bringing it away. On one occasion, while returning to Oklahoma City from Grove, I brought a number of the smaller items from both collections with me. As the train stopped for over an hour at Tulsa, I took these up to the editorial rooms of the World, the managing editor of which had manifested a keen interest in the work that we were doing. When he found that I had such a collection with me, he brought in several other members of the editorial staff who were invited to inspect the same. They were quite enthusiastic over the finds that had been made and it was then suggested and urged that the Society should plan to display these two collections at Tulsa and elsewhere in

Page 245

the state before installing them permanently in the museum of the Society. Personally, I believe the suggestion is a good one as it would arouse wide-spread interest in the Society and its work, increase its influence and add materially to its membership. It will take several weeks of time and some expense to put over such an undertaking but, if the Society is after increased influence and added strength, it would be time and money well spent.

On the 17th of July, I received a rather lengthy telegram from Mr. Warren K. Moorehead, director of the Andover, (Mass.) Museum of American Archaeology, stating that he wished to talk matters over with me, that he was about to start for a brief trip to Santa Fe, N. M., and that, if I would go along with him to Santa Fe, he would pay the expenses of the trip. After consultation with members of the Board of Directors to whom I could show this message, it was decided to accept his offer, as it seemed to meet with unanimous approval. I left Oklahoma City on the morning of Monday, July 20th, arriving at Santa Fe a little more than twenty-four hours later. In all I spent three days in Santa Fe and one at the ruins of the Pecos pueblo, abandoned by its inhabitants 175 years ago and now being excavated by an expedition under the direction of Dr. A. V. Kider, of the Andover Museum, who is also secretary of the American Anthropologist Association. Doctor Kidder went over everything with me personally, explaining every part of the work in greater or less detail. He also had many questions to ask concerning the progress and results of our own archaeological field work. Mr. Moorehead, who remained at the Pecos ruin a day longer than I did, selected a number of specimens therefrom, which he packed and shipped to us by express.

Dr. Edgar L. Hewett, director of the American School of Research, which is located in Santa Fe, was very kind. He offered to take me on a two-day tour of other ruins, including both ruined pueblo sites and ancient cliff-dwelling settlements, but a previous engagement that I did not feel like cancelling[sic] necessitated a reluctant and regretful declination. The New Mexico Historical Society held a brief called meeting while I was in Santa Fe. I attended and was called upon, responding briefly, greeting the members on behalf of our

Page 246

Society and pointing out some of the lines in which their Society and ours should have a community of interest.

With reference to the recent visit to Santa Fe, I wish to make several comments and suggestions. The collections of the museum of the American School of Research, previously mentioned, are housed in two buildings, namely: (a) Governor’s Palace (Fl Palacio), which was erected during the early Spanish period in the 17th Century, and (b) the new Museum built about a dozen years ago, its architecture being a most unique adaptation and combination of Pueblo and Spanish types. The cost of this structure was very reasonable, as it was erected before the War. It would cost from $300,000.00 to $350,000.00 to duplicate it now. It was planned by the members of the staff of the School of Research instead of being turned over to the tender mercies and omniscient wisdom of a politically selected architect, as is quite generally done in the matter of designing public buildings in some other states. Without wishing to be in the least officious, it seems well to suggest that, before the next Legislature convenes, this Society should be in a position to submit at least a tentative design for a building which will suit its purposes and from which the final plans and specifications of the proposed structure may be developed by an experienced museum architect. It is reasonably sure that such a definite proposition will have much greater weight when presented to the attention of the Legislature than if our request is merely for a building, so utterly regardless of plans, designs or details as to indicate that we do not know what is really needed or wanted in the premises.

Last year, your secretary filed a budget estimate with the state budget officer. This budget, which asked for modern library and meseum[sic] equipment, and for additional room which is as yet unoccupied in the capitol building, was approved by the November meeting of the Board of Directors, without a dissenting vote. Later, when the building proposition was sprung on the Society at its annual meeting, the request for appropriation for modern equipment was wholly ignored, wih[sic] the result that no legislative consideration was given thereto and the Society finds its collections still more congested and with a grave possibility of losing all by fire. To be real plain, the Society should ask and insist that the next Legislature shall make due provision for modern fire-

Page 247

proof equipment for both library and museum, appropriation for such purpose to become available immediately and to be made regardless of whether or not a new building is to be erected. In the event appropriation should be secured for a new building, from two to three years would elapse before the same would be completed and ready for occupancy. In the mean time, the Society should not have to continue to labor under the handicap of being overcrowded and congested and of having to undergo the unnecessary risk of loss or total destruction because of lack of proper provision for modern equipment and additional room. The equipment to be purchased for temporary installation in unused corridors could later be moved to the building when the same shall have been completed. A building is sure to come in due time but the greatest and most pressing need is adequate floor space and modern equipment for immediate use. Putting all of the eggs in a new building basket and letting that fall, as was done at the last legislature session, might prove to be disastrous to a really tragic degree if again repeated.

Between two and three years ago, your secretary was called upon to address the McDowell Club of this city on the subject of Indian Art, the occasion being the presentation of an American Indian program. In the course of that address the suggestion was made that somewhere in Oklahoma, there should be established and maintained a self-sustaining institute or colony for the preservation and logical development of Indian art. In so doing, the writer had in mind the art colonies at Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Taos, New Mexico, both of which were mentioned at that time. He also had in mind the famous Rookwood pottery establishment, near Cincinnati. Such an institution as he had in mind would be different from either of these, though there would doubtless be an adaptation of some of the plans and policies of each. Theoretically, the arts to be practiced would include painting, clay modeling, bead-work, basketry, spinning and weaving and the production of ceramics. In this connection, it is well to state that the Museum of the School of American Research, at Santa Fe, receives and holds for sale, oil paintings which have been produced by artists of the colony at Taos and pottery which is produced by some of the most artistic potters of several of the Indian pueblos. Wholly

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incidental to such an arrangement, the Museum has been the recipient of numerous gifts from the same artists to it has thus extended its co-operation, the the[sic] aggregate value of such donations being already estimated as equal to the original cost of the new Museum building. Where such an Indian art establishment should be located would remain to be determined, the only limitation being that its domicile should be in Oklahoma—the Indian state. The Oklahoma Historical Society stands to gain by giving the fullest measure of moral support and encouragement to such an enterprise in case it should be launched under the right auspices.

There is evidence of growing interest in the Society and in its work, throughout the state. This comes from unexpected quarters and is manifested in many ways. To equal the expectations of the supporting public is not an easy matter. To be worthy of that support, the Society must increase in usefulness as well as its material collections. No ideal or standard which we may set up now can suffice for the attainments of a few years hence. Ours must be a growth in service rendered no less than in the documentary and museum material which is assembled and preserved for present or future use and reference.

JOSEPH B. THOBURN,
Secretary.

Oklahoma City,
August 4, 1925.

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