TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Cherokee Nation today hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of the Cherokee National History Museum. The museum is the newest addition to the tribe’s robust tourism offerings and is located within one of its most iconic structures, the Cherokee National Capitol building.
“In 1908, Shorey Ross stated in the Indian School Journal that he hoped our capitol building would later be used as ‘a historical museum, an object of interest to those who admire the steady and upward progress of the Cherokees, who, under great difficulties, made their nation renowned and merited the distinction of being the leading Indians of the North American continent,’” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “I stand here today, beyond proud, knowing that through our dedication to historic preservation, we are fulfilling the dreams of our ancestors and enhancing our ability to share our story with the world.”
The Cherokee National History Museum shares the history and culture of the Cherokee Nation within 4,000 square feet of permanent exhibit space that features Cherokee lifestyle from pre-European contact through the Trail of Tears and the revitalization of the tribe after the American Civil War.
The powerful and inspiring stories are supported, in part, by artifacts on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, Gilcrease Museum, Oklahoma Historical Society and Cherokee National Archives.
Technology also plays a huge role in the museum, as many exhibits offer an interactive augmented reality through use of iPads.
“The Cherokee National History Museum is the culmination of years of thoughtful planning and careful execution in effort to provide an engaging experience that allows visitors to immerse themselves in Cherokee history, culture and art,” said Molly Jarvis, senior vice president of Cultural Tourism for Cherokee Nation Businesses. “This project incorporates the work of many Cherokee artists and is a wonderful representation of the power we have when we use our own voice to share our story with the world.”
In addition to its permanent exhibits, the museum boasts 1,000 square feet of rotating gallery space that will feature fresh content centered around seven themes: government, education, religion, culture, community, commerce and veterans. The first exhibit on display in the gallery pays tribute to Cherokee Nation citizen Cecil Dick, who is known for his contributions to Native art and his tribe. It is on display through Jan. 31.
Originally built in 1869 on the main town square of Tahlequah, the Cherokee National Capitol building housed the tribe’s executive, legislative and judicial offices until 1906, and was most recently home to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court until fall 2018. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated a National Landmark.
Throughout the years, Cherokee Nation has completed many restoration projects to maintain the site’s historic and structural integrity, such as exterior renovations that included a massive masonry restoration and constructing a replica cupola to bring the building back to its 1870s appearance. Interior renovations included new restrooms, flooring and plaster restorations, and the addition of an elevator and second stairwell.
The Cherokee National History Museum is located at 101 S. Muskogee Avenue. It is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information on Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, including museum operations, please call (877) 779-6977 or visit www.VisitCherokeeNation.com.