Home > research >  Indian Archives Timeline

Timeline of the OHS American Indian Archives

  • 1902 Curator W. P. Campbell writes federal officials at Muskogee regarding collecting records of the Five Civilized Tribes (FCT).
  • 1927 Grant Foreman authors resolution to acquire the records of the FCT while serving as a member of the OHS board of directors.
  • 1928 The OHS board authorizes the employment of a person to begin an inventory of the records of the FTC housed in the attic of the Muskogee Federal Courthouse. It would take several months before a person is hired to undertake that inventory.
  • 1929 Rella Watts of Muskogee, Oklahoma, is hired to inventory FTC records. She would spend the next several years in all kinds of weather to complete the task.

    Meanwhile the Secretary of the Interior requires the OHS board to build a fireproof building as a condition before records would be considered for transfer. The Oklahoma legislature appropriates $500,000 to build such a facility. Construction begins in late 1929.
  • 1930 November 16, the new Oklahoma Historical Society building is dedicated with great fanfare.
  • 1932 Martha Buntin is hired to begin a survey of Indian Agency records held across the state.
  • 1933 May, Congressman William Wirt Hastings (D), a member of the Cherokee Nation from Oklahoma, introduced House Resolution 5631 authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to place tribal records including Indian Agency records in addition to the Five Civilized Tribes.
  • 1934 March 27, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs legislation enacted by Congress, granting to the Oklahoma Historical Society custody of certain records for preservation and research.
  • 1934 November 14, Dr. and Mrs. Grant Foreman and Rella Looney (formerly Watts) come to Oklahoma City placing the records of the Five Civilized Tribes in the basement of the Historical Building.

    November 28, the formal opening of the Indian Archives occurs. The first researcher is Mr. Foster T. Bean of Kilgore, Texas, a member of the Cherokee Nation. In 1994 during the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Indian Archives, it was learned that Mr. Bean now age ninety was still living in Kilgore, Texas!
  • 1937–1938 The Works Progress Administration collects some 25,000 oral interviews from across the state. Bound in 112 volumes now known as the Indian-Pioneer History Collection, they are deposited with the Indian Archives in 1938.
  • 1940s Martha Buntin brings in agency records from all federally operated agencies except the Osage.
  • 1974 Rella Looney retires after forty-five years of faithful service. Martha Royce Blaine, PhD, succeeds Mrs. Looney as Indian Records Archivist.
  • 1976 August 1, a National Endowment for the Humanities grant begins to microfilm the tribal records.
  • 1978 Memorandum of Understanding signed between OHS and the National Archives.
  • 1980 June 30, the NEH project ends with nearly 1,000 rolls of tribal records preserved on microfilm.
  • 1981 March 31, Martha Blaine retires. April 1, Mary Lee Ervin Boyle succeeds Blaine. Sometime in 1981, Boyle requests the board to change the name of the division from Indian Archives to Archives and Manuscripts Division. Late in the year, manuscripts and photographs are transferred to the Archives from the Library.
  • 1982 The Oral History Collection is transferred from Oklahoma Christian College now known as Oklahoma Christian University.
  • 1984 The Newspaper Department is placed under the Archives Division.
  • 1989 Mary Lee Boyle retires.
  • 1990 W. D. Welge succeeds Boyle as director of division.
  • 1994 November, the 60th anniversary of the Indian Archives is celebrated. Former archivists Rella Looney, Martha Blaine, and Mary Lee Boyle attend.
  • 1998 Planning for new building begins.
  • 2003 February, the Research Library is merged with the Archives to create the Research Division. W. D. Welge named director over newly created division.
  • 2005 July, only the Research Division remains in the old Wiley Post Historical Building.
  • 2006 Spring, Research Division moves into new Oklahoma History Center.
  • 2006 April 19, grand opening of the Research Division occurs with ribbon-cutting ceremony.
  • 2009 October 28–29, 75th anniversary celebration of Indian Archives takes place