Blackwell museum take huge, important, steps to preservation

by Jordan Green

Sometimes, the best news slips past even the nosiest of newshounds. A heck of a good story slipped past me a few weeks ago. On March 4, the Oklahoma Historical Society announced that the Top of Oklahoma Historical Society Museum received a sizable grant to help preserve local history.

Through the state historical society’s Oklahoma Heritage Preservation Grant Program, Blackwell’s own “Jewel of the Chikaskia” museum received $20,000 “that will fund the purchase of collections management software upgrades and training, as well as the salary for a project-specific employee to create a digital inventory of its collection,” officials said.

“This will include identification, research, photographing and barcoding of all items.”

“The Oklahoma Historical Society grant is the next giant step in the immense job of inventorying all items in the 35,000-square-foot Top of Oklahoma Historical Society Museum in Blackwell,” Dianne Braden, a board member at the museum, said in a news release. “The hardware and software are in place, and the grant will allow the hiring of an inventory specialist so that the museum’s vast inventory will be digital and available to all. The museum’s collections have been waiting for cataloguing. In the digital age, the catalog will be available to all, both in and out of the museum.”

The grant was distributed as part of a $460,000 project to help museums across Oklahoma, officials said. “This is only the second year for this grant program,” said Nicole Harvey, the state historical society’s grants administrator.

“As organizations wrap up their grant projects from last year and as we see the quality of the applications that came in for this grant cycle, it is clear that there is a strong need for this type of grant program.”

“The Oklahoma Heritage Preservation Grant Program is a grants-in-aid program offered by the Oklahoma Historical Society with a goal of encouraging the collection, preservation and sharing of Oklahoma history at the grassroots level in all parts of the state,” officials said. “Open to tribal and municipal governments and notfor-profit historical organizations located in Oklahoma and registered with the Oklahoma secretary of state, this grants program offers funding ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 for projects focused on collections, exhibits and programming. Applications for this annual program open in the fall and award announcements are made in January.”

Of course, none of this would be possible without the work of Melissa Hudson, the museum director. She and her family work tirelessly to ensure that Blackwell’s history is well-preserved. We owe her a debt of gratitude for caring for Blackwell’s past. We’re lucky to have someone who cares so deeply about our town’s heritage. I’ve donated some stuff to the museum over the years – mostly newspaper archives – and have always been so pleased by the diligence with which Hudson cares for them. If you haven’t been to the museum lately, it’s worth a visit.

You never know what new, old stuff will be lying around. Also of note: Fellow sleuther Charles Gerian dug up some interesting information about the museum just in time for Easter. The museum, he discovered, was dedicated on Easter Sunday in 1913. Approximately 1,400 people attended the building’s opening ceremony. Some believe the building was the first building in Blackwell to have electricity. And all these years later, the building that preserves the past is still lighting the way to the future

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