Oklahoma Archivists Take Their Skills on The Road

Drumright Historical Society
Drumright Historical Society

Rolled papers at the Drumright Historical Society


The Oklahoma Historical Records Advisory Board (OHRAB) sent a team of archivists and librarians to the Drumright Historical Society last fall to help the small staff preserve and document the history of “Oklahoma’s Boomtown.” Drumright, Oklahoma sprang to life when oil was discovered nearby in 1912. The Wheeler Well was producing 300,000 barrels a day only five years later in 1917, one of over 3,000 wells in the first large oil producing area in Oklahoma, the Drumright Dome. The population of the town peaked at 6,400 in 1920, then the number of residents declined as the flow of oil decreased. Now a town of some 2,000 residents, Drumright and nearby Cushing have not forgotten their oil fed roots.  

Members of the Oklahoma Archivists Association (OAA) Jan Davis, Lisa Henry, Kitty Pittman, David Corbly, Mallory Covington, Rachel Hawkins, and Jennifer Day traveled to Drumright where they worked alongside staff and volunteers of the Drumright Historical Society for two days to house and catalog their collection of artifacts and archival materials. Rebecca Elder, a cultural heritage preservation consultant from Texas, conducted a site survey in 2013 and provided the Drumright Historical Society staff with a Preservation Site Survey Report.  In 2017, members of the Society applied for a re-grant from OHRAB through its Improving Access to Collections re-grant project.  The purpose of the re-grant project was to support efforts to make collections more accessible online. Prior to the group work days, Davis and Pittman conducted a site visit and met with the museum board member Deborah Wilson and curator Tammy Posey to identify at-risk materials and significant collections for the team to focus on. From that meeting a plan was laid out and archival supplies were purchased with grant funds. On Friday October 6, the team went to work scanning photographs, organizing school records and cataloging artifacts. Work continued through Saturday afternoon, resulting in over 100 images scanned and cataloged, 25 cubic feet of primary school records dated 1910-1975 processed and 200 artifacts cleaned and cataloged. The images are being uploaded into the Images of Oklahoma database, and the inventories are going to be hosted on the museum’s website. David Corbly photographed close to 1,000 objects in the museum’s collection in order to inventory their holdings. Lisa Henry and Deborah Wilson photographed and inventoried 300 sets of salt and pepper shakers from around the world.  

Manuscript archivist from the Oklahoma Historical Society, Mallory Covington, placed tightly rolled panoramic photographs in a humidification chamber to relax them for flattening and scanning. Some of the images had never been seen by the museum staff before. Custom acid free enclosures were made for the images so they could now be stored flat. The success of the collaboration between archivists and a local history museum is something the members of the OHRAB and the OAA hope to continue in Oklahoma, reaching out to all areas of the state to preserve and share our rich cultural heritage.  

– Jennifer Day, OAA Member-at-Large

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