by: Jake Krumwiede
The last eighteen months have been a challenge for all of us.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone knows that. As I typed it, even my own eyes rolled a little bit.
We know that everyone has faced professional challenges in the last two years. We have adapted to remarkable circumstances. We have grown professionally. In some ways, as a profession, we are better for it. In some ways, we are still struggling. But, that’s not what I sat down to write about today.
The last eighteen months have been a challenge for me personally, as I’m sure it was for a lot of other people, too. I lost both of my two remaining grandparents this past year. And one of the heavy responsibilities for our family was to go through Grandma and Grandpa’s house and try to figure out just what to do with everything. Their home in Coffeyville, Kansas had been their home since the early 1960s. It was the only home my mother ever knew. And, as much as I have moved around in my life, and have had so many places that were briefly my home, Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Kansas was the one constant. It was the hub where we would all gather for holidays, family gatherings, and so many other cherished moments. It also made sorting through everything an incredibly difficult task…and one that was incredibly slow, too. Everything had a story. Every story triggered a cascade of memories that went in a hundred different directions.
Their home was full of artifacts that told the story of us.
The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center is a museum in Enid, Oklahoma that also tells the story of a group of people. Our collection is made up of pieces that help tell the story the people that make up the northwestern region of the state. I look at our collection, and I see objects that have countless stories, and serve as a symbol of something larger than their original purpose.
For example, my grandpa carried simple “Old Timer” pocket knives. We found dozens of them in his sock drawers. They would bring back countless memories of Grandpa always keeping the blades of his knives razor sharp, or how he would always be ready to help us open boxes with it on dozens of different Christmas mornings throughout the years. There were enough of these pocket knives for each of the boys, and some of the girls that wanted them, to have one of grandpa’s pocket knives. I still carry mine with me. In all honesty, the pocket knife is cheap. It has little to no value to anyone else as an object, outside its brief, utilitarian use. But it is one of my most prized possessions. It is not just a knife. It is a million stories. It is a symbol of everything my grandpa was: simple, sharp, utilitarian, and as in the memory of the Christmas story, also very caring servant.
Our collection at the Heritage Center is full of different stories just like that. They are objects that continue to exist outside their original utilitarian purpose and now exist as a symbol of the people that lived in this region of the state of Oklahoma. One of our board members always stops by one of our exhibits in the permanent exhibit gallery at the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center. In it is an old family bible and a hymnal from his great-grandmother. These were pieces that his family cherished, generation to generation. And, as I give tours to people who visit us, I almost always have people that will share with me their stories of their own family bibles and the many memories that follow as a result.
We are a museum that is full of artifacts that tell the story of us.
That is one of the incredible things about museums. They tell a story of people…where we have been, and where we are going. We learn about the past, and at the same time learn about ourselves, finding within that past the stories that give our own lives meaning.