TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — There's a new home for centuries old artifacts from the Cherokee Nation.
"It's state of the art," said Travis Owens, the Director of Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism. "It's storm resistant, fireproof, and we have a gas suppression system."
When it opens this fall, the new Cherokee National Research Center at the Cherokee Springs Plaza in Tahlequah, will be a treasure trove of Cherokee treasures. The Nation's foremost collection of historic Cherokee-related documents will include over 5,000 objects like baskets and pottery, and a whole lot more.
"There's also over 100,000 archival documents within this collection," Owens said. "We're really excited to bring them here to a safe environment later this summer."
The safe environment is being built after the Cherokee Nation took ownership of the Cherokee Heritage Center that started gathering artifacts back in 1963. But the collection was recently declared to be in a state of emergency because of storage conditions.
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Junior says the Nation wanted to step in to preserve the past for generations to come.
"They were in jeopardy," Chief Hoskin said. "We have now saved them and this is the place where they'll be safe."
This 5,000 square foot "vault" includes two research rooms where artists, scholars and community members can hold and witness history. Plus, there's a public genealogy center with research materials and experts in tracing family roots.
The goal is to increase access to very special documents like the Nation's Land Patent.
"The very document that the United States signed through Martin Van Buren to grant Cherokee Nation this land when we were removed," said Hoskin.
"They're going to be able to come and research these items," said Owens. "We'll be able to take them out for them and allow them to connect with the items."
Chief Hoskin says this "vault" is temporary because there are even bigger and better plans for the future.
"It is going to be a world-class institution for research, art, and history," he said. "Really something we'll be very proud of."