Located at the heart of the Osage Nation since 1938, the Osage Nation Museum [ONM] is a place of gathering, community, and sharing the enduring story of the Osage. ONM is the oldest tribally-governed museum in the United States. During the 1930s, Osage Tribal Councilman and writer John Joseph Mathews championed an effort to create a central repository for the art, artifacts, material culture, and other resource material related to the history of the Osage. This effort to preserve Osage material culture was vital due to the numerous dislocations and disruptions to our previous lifeways along the Ohio River Valley and beyond. Mathews worked with the Tribal Council and Chief Fred Lookout to ensure a space to steward the culture and history of our people from our perspective.
On a beautiful, sunny day in May 1938, Osages gathered on the campus for a two-day celebration in honor of the Museum’s opening.
Since this fortuitous beginning, the ONM continues to narrate our own experiences and create new and relevant pathways to understand and represent Osage culture and worldview.
Exhibits and programs strive to represent the trajectory and movement of Osage arts, history, language, and culture through the generations, from the earliest extant work of our ancestors to the newest creations of our younger people. The Museum aspires to create dynamic, relevant spaces for exhibits, programs, and research that bring Osage culture and history to life by demonstrating how our past lives on in meaningful ways and is carried into the future. Please stop by and join us in this continuing dialogue.
COLLECTION. The ONM Permanent Collection comprises works of art, artifacts, historical photographs, and ethnographic and archival material. In 1927 the Osage Council purchased the collection of John L. Bird, a trader who began collecting Osage material around 1883. The Bird Collection forms the nucleus of the permanent collection. It has expanded over the decades to include distinct collections of Henry Pratt, W.B. Mathis, Lee Wilcox, Tamara Erikson, and Lilian B. Mathews, among others.