The Gilcrease Museum just received what is the most complete collection of interviews connected to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
The collection was donated by the family of Eddie Faye Gates, a retired educator who took it upon herself to track down survivors and family, and record interviews with them.
Gilcrease Museum was chosen to preserve an unmatched collection of first-person accounts of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
The Gates collection cannot be recreated as many of the interview subjects have since died. Gilcrease plans to preserve the Gates Collection permanently and make it available online so anyone can see and hear first hand accounts of what happened.
"Those were the voices that Mrs. Gates was committed to not just saving, but committing to a place where they would be preserved," said Susan Neal, the Executive Director of Gilcrease. "This is the single place where they will all be together digitized, made available here and worldwide and that will be a first."
The collection consists of VHS tapes, DVD's, photographs and articles compiled by Mrs. Gates, primarily in the 1990's. The family recently transferred the collection to Gilcrease, which was awarded a grant to study the material. There are more than 100 interviews, according to Neal.
"It's an incredible achievement. My mother was a historian. She always taught and thought history was important, and by having her artifacts go to a museum, it allows your story to live, beyond you as an individual," Mrs. Gates' daughter Dr. Dianne Gates-Anderson said. "That's what I think was really important about getting the collection to a museum."
Gates spent more than twenty years researching the massacre, writing books and speaking up for the victims. When Tulsa prosecutors posthumously dropped charges against 55 people charged with rioting, Gates said "they never were guilty, they did the suffering and to have the only written report blame it on them was terrible."
Gates-Anderson said her mother turned her energy from social activism into chronicling stories from the massacre.
"She was able to seek out and find the survivors and collect their stories and that was kind of aligned with who she was," Gates-Anderson said. "She knew the story was there, the people were there and their stories were important and it was important to preserve and collect them."
Neal said the collection would be studied, preserved, exhibited and posted online for widespread study.
"It's the kind of history that informs the future and will help us do better" said Neal. "It was the intent of the family that is be available for research not just by the professional scholar, but also for the families here in Tulsa, and it also be available for exhibition."