The Cherokee Nation brings the conversation to the forefront by hosting a series of classes designed to educate and teach the proper way to protect and preserve historical artifacts like firearms, photos, documents and gravestones, as well as offering classes on genealogy.
Travis Owens, manager of cultural resources planning and development at Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, said the classes are a necessity for today’s generations so “they can learn the correct methods to preserve the items for future generations.”
“It is important to preserve our historical items because [they] tell a story about the past,” Owens said. “It is our mission to promote and preserve the history and culture of the Cherokee people. These classes allow attendees to take similar steps to tell their own stories. They can expect to learn the basic methods needed to ensure the longevity of the life of the items.”
The classes cost $25 and are open to the first 25 people who register online at cherokeegiftshop.com.
The first class, protecting and preserving antique firearms, kicks off the series Friday at 10 a.m. at the Cherokee National Prison Museum, 124 E. Choctaw St., in Tahlequah. It is hosted by Rick Parker, owner of Parker Conservation Inc., an art conservationist with more than 40 years of experience in such places as the White House, George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s home, at Monticello.
Additional future classes — a gravestone workshop, an heirloom preservation class, photo and document protection and genealogy studies — will run throughout the summer at the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum, 122 E. Keetoowah St., in Tahlequah.
“There is always that risk that if older items are not properly maintained, they will deteriorate and could be lost,” Owens said. “We believe it’s extremely important to protect and preserve those items.”
Owens believes that without preservation, it will be difficult for future Cherokees to connect with people, places and objects from their past.
“The value of preservation is sometimes a difficult measure,” Owens added. “Everyone’s history is rooted in their ancestors, the places from which they originate. The ability to connect shared history would not be possible without preservation.”