Tulsa Community: Preserving Local History for Future Generations

How to Organize and Maintain a Bahá’í Archives 2019
Roger Dahl, Sue Rishworth, Lois Walker

Joan King, recording secretary for the Tulsa, Oklahoma Local Spiritual Assembly, tells us how the Wilmette Institute’s 2019 course on Bahá’í Archives caused a shift in her thinking and how she is beginning to involve other members of her community in a project to preserve local history for future generations.

Joan KingMy goal in taking this course is to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to learn what is archival material and what is not. I now have a base knowledge and am continuing my study to become more knowledgeable in order to pass on this information to others that are interested in archiving.

One insight I have gained is the value of preserving local history for future generations. I had not really considered that the archives of our community might be used for research years from now. I’ve come to understand how important it is that the correct preservation techniques are used for the various types of things we would have that are considered archival. I’ve learned that we may have things that could be of interest to the National Archives if needed to complete a collection there.

When I started, I had no skills. I had no idea what was required to create and maintain an archive. I have learned and am continuing to learn skills necessary to take care of our archives. I was amazed at the shift in my thinking regarding our local history. While I always thought it was important, I never really appreciated what it can mean to future generations. When I read that paper can last 100+ years it really hit me as to the value of accurately preserving our records.

I’m actually surprised that I’ve become pretty possessive of what we have found in going thru the storage unit and want to make sure that everything is handled with the utmost care while we are still discovering what is there. I’ve always valued and kept things-letters, pictures, flyers, calendars etc. Now I see that some of these things could be of value to our community. I have photographs that I took of events during the past 40+ years. I also have some of the same for other communities where I have lived. These are things I should share rather than just hold on to. I never knew about the value of personal papers.

Because of this course I have changed the way I approach our Assembly minutes and our newsletters/calendars. Also, I never thought about the quality of paper or ink.

This course is just the beginning of an ongoing project for the Tulsa community. I/we need to continue to educate ourselves, as well as others in the community, on archival principles and practices to ensure our archives are maintained going forward. We need to find a location to correctly store our files, etc. until we have actual archival quarters that can serve the community at large. There are photos and newspaper articles that need to be correctly preserved. We need to make sure that there are hard copies of digital information.

I have been able to create a lot of interest in this project with members of the community and the Local Spiritual Assembly. My goal is to continue to enroll others in the importance of the local archives and to have help in correctly saving things starting now going forward. I would also like to gather stories from early members of the community or their families about events in their past here in Tulsa.

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