photo of an Osage barbecue from 1924. One of the many photos
in Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn's donation to
the Osage Nation Museum.
(photo by Tara Madden - Osage News)
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 Agents house and the Hiatts
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
museums 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.
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
"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
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 ONMs 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit the museum at 819 Grandview Avenue, Pawhuska, OK 74056.
The ONMs 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.