May 20, 2019
Oklahoma Historical Society Acquires Cornelius Photography Collection
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) recently acquired the Jerry L. Cornelius Photography Collection from the Cornelius family.
The collection contains more than 19,000 photo negatives and digital images. The photographs are primarily of people and places in Tulsa and the surrounding area from the 1950s through the early 21st century. The collection will be archived by the OHS, and through OKPOP the collection will remain with the Tulsa community. The OHS eventually will digitize and catalog the negatives, making it possible for the collection to be searchable on the OHS’s Gateway to Oklahoma History website, gateway.okhistory.org.
Jerry L. Cornelius, a professional photographer in Tulsa for more than 50 years, owned and operated Cornelius Photography and Cornelius Photocraft. He was a third-generation professional photographer, and his family spanned more than 100 years of professional photography in Oklahoma. His father, Meyers A. Cornelius, and his great-uncle, Z. P. Meyers, were commercial photographers. The Z. P. Meyers/Barney Hillerman Photographic Collection is one of the largest photography collections currently archived by the OHS.
Cornelius was a graduate of Tulsa’s Will Rogers High School and the University of Oklahoma. At age 29, Cornelius became the youngest president of the Oklahoma chapter of the Professional Photographers of America (PPA). He also held two PPA designations, Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman. Cornelius was a longtime member of the Tulsa Rotary Club, and he was a driving force in the Rotary’s effort to acquire, preserve and catalog the Beryl Ford Collection photographs, a significant collection of photographs of historic Tulsa. Cornelius was the executive director of the Ford Collection for several years. He passed away in 2016.
“The Jerry L. Cornelius Photography Collection will enhance the already considerable photographic legacy established by his family at the OHS, which began with the acquisition of the Z. P. Meyers/Barney Hillerman Photographic Collection in 1998. Additionally, the images will contribute to telling the story of Tulsa through a professional lens, which parallels what Cornelius’s uncle, Z. P. Meyers, did for Oklahoma City,” said Rachel Mosman, OHS photo and digital assets manager.
Cornelius’s three daughters, Janet Carmichael, Jamie Danias, and Andrea Spencer, noted his love of history and its connection to his chosen profession.
“Our dad was very focused on historic photographs and devoted several years of his life preserving over 200,000 photos in the Beryl Ford Collection for future generations,” said Carmichael.
“Our goal has been to preserve our father’s photographs and have them available to the people of Oklahoma and elsewhere,” Spencer said.
“We are thrilled that the OHS will preserve our father’s historic photographs,” Danias said. “Our father, photography and history had always gone together; when he took a photo he saw himself as creating a piece of history.”
The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.
Editor’s Note: For photographs to accompany this release, please contact OHS Photo and Digital Assets Manager Rachel Mosman at 405-522-5208 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To speak to a representative of the Cornelius family, please contact Phil Sutton at 541-556-5194 or email@example.com.