Working With The John Hair Cultural Center and Museum

Dr. King’s Public History class with Director Ernestine Berry of the John Hair Cultural Center and Museum (Fall 2018)

In Fall 2018, Dr. King organized a public history course that supported the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees’ John Hair Cultural Center and Museum by examining, studying, and designing exhibit labels on historic Cherokee documents that the museum gathered from throughout the country and translated from Cherokee to English for the first time. The new exhibit, “Missing Pieces: Discovering Keetoowah History through Language, Literature, and Law,” will open by spring 2019. Some students exceeded expectations of the class by volunteering on their own time without any compensation. One student, for example, volunteered weekly and worked with the museum director, Ernestine Berry, throughout the fall semester. Both the students and museum director have benefited from meeting and working together through this public history course. As students learn and appreciate the needs of community, they foster reciprocal relationships that promote inclusive excellence in the university and beyond.

HIST 4023: Public History (Fall 2018) provided an introduction to public history practices, methodologies, and issues centered on U.S. histories and memories, which also included direct engagement with local public historians and community-based projects in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

The class centered on the special collaboration with the John Hair Cultural Center and Museum. For the main project, the class helped the director of the center Ernestine Berry on the forthcoming exhibit featuring historic Cherokee documents that have been gathered from various archives as far as the Yale Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library and the Newberry Library for examples. These documents had been translated from Cherokee syllabary to English by several local community members.

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Students had hands-on training and experiential learning that bolstered their résumé, while developing skills in public history that are respected and desired by various career tracks. Several of the students from the course are pursuing internships and graduate studies in history-related fields. The class included some of the following excursions and meetings with professionals in museums and historic sites:

Sarah Sutton of Sustainable Museums

Ernestine Berry, Director of the John Hair Cultural Center and Museum

Brenda Kay Bradford, Head of Archives at Northeastern State University

Ashley Stoddard, Special Collections Historical Specialist at Northeastern State University

Beth Herrington, City of Tahlequah Historic Preservation Board

Indian Territory Genealogical & Historical Society

Neil Morton, emeritus NSU professor and Dean of Graduate Studies and co-author of Cherokee Nation: A History of Survival, Self Determination, and Identity

Carolyn McClellan, former Programs Assistant Director of the National Museum of the American Indian 

Cherokee Heritage Center and Archives

Hunter’s Home with Jennifer Frazee

Thank you for all the support and service of our community professionals and friends!

Giduwa Cherokee News featured our NSU public history service-learning project:

Keetoowah News

Students presented about their work and service with the museum and class in a symposium open to the public:

Public History Presentations

Here is the Giduwa Cherokee News (December 2018) article about public history students’ presentations:

giduwa news article public history