“The progress is coming along very smoothly. We’re kind of getting to the point where we’re way past the half point.” –CCA Director Veronica Pipestem
Gary Fife/Radio Specialist
Work nearing completion, artifacts inventoried
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — Work on the outside of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Council House has progressed significantly and the collection of historical artifacts resides in a protected facility on MCN property. That is the update from Veronica Pipestem, Director of the MCN Cultural Center and Archives.
During an interview on Mvskoke Radio, Pipestem reported on the Council House, “The progress is coming along very smoothly. We’re kind of getting to the point where we’re way past the half point. We’re about 75 percent done with the construction portion of that.
“Of course, we are still working on the reinterpretation of the inside. We can’t do a ton of work moving in until they get the construction work done. As you can see, they’ve completed the roof and now, they’re working on the cupola and fixing all of those things on top. They’re doing the floors and the staircase.”
“Of course there’s the two-tiered staircase. One of the more interesting elements of that is that they’re not going to touch the side that’s original to the building, because there are original stairs still left there. We made that decision and that side will be shut off to visitors because those are the steps that have been there since the building was created. So, we wanted people to see those stairs. They‘re very worn and they’ve got a lot of character.”
Major problems with a corner pillar in danger of collapse and cracks in interior walls have been fixed.
“They’ve gone in the northwest corner and shored up the foundation there, shored up that pillar,” Pipestem said. “They’ve repaired all of that and they are fixing any cracks that occurred because of the movement.”
Interior fixtures and furniture will reflect the period around 1906 when MCN still used the Council House as the focal point of the government.
“When you go in, you will see things like partner’s desks and standing teachers desks. For example the standing teachers desks will go in the Board of Education, which also operated a school out of the Council House for many years,” Pipestem said. “You’ll see lots and lots of interpretive panels and photographs of people.
“One of the more exciting things that we’re working on, is putting a very, very large map up of the Creek Nation and tribal towns in existence and letting visitors who come, who are Mvskoke citizens or people with Mvskoke ancestry place pictures of themselves or their ancestors on that map. So, it’ll become kind of a community project that gets developed as we go forward.”
Photos to be placed on that map, she added, will be a combination of historic materials combined with, ‘selfies’ taken with today’s phones.
The planned visitor’s center will be located directly across 6th Street in downtown Okmulgee.
Pipestem said the center would provide space, services and a visitor-friendly place.
“The purpose of the Council House Visitor’s Center is a very practical one. Once the restoration of the Council House is complete, we want to keep it as pristine a condition as possible,” she said. “Because of its age and because of the investment we’ve put into in restoring the floors, the interpretation, the programming scheme that we’re using in this historic home, this historic museum, we didn’t feel like it was the greatest idea for us to be using daily office space in there because that is going to create some wear and tear on the building.
“So, the first very practical matter in having a visitor’s center is to have a place where we can receive guests and for having staff to receive those guests.”
The center is planned to provide storage space, public meeting halls and office space for staff.
The Creek artifact collection will be part of the planned exhibits, but currently, it remains boxed up at the MCN-owned RiverWalk development.
“Right now, the collection is stored in the RiverWalk in Jenks, so it’s still on tribal property. It’s mostly still in boxes. The decision is to not disturb or touch, too much, the three dimensional objects in that collection, because they’re in packing boxes and because some of these objects are very deteriorated and very old, we have some things from Tukvpvtce Mound,” Pipestem said. “Those things are very, very old and very, very fragile. The more we handle them and take them in and out of boxes, the more the chance of damaging them.”
“So, the three dimensional items, framed art, anything like that, we haven’t done much with. When you take them in and out of boxes, you have the potential to damage those things or the things next to them in that box.”
An inventory is underway. Old photos have been digitized and a basic inventory has been done on the manuscript collections.
The projected completion date for the work at the Council House is in 2018. Pipestem said at present, there is no date set for opening of the visitor’s center.
Citizens can contact CCA at: 918-549-2434.