George Kaiser Family Foundation to Bring Woody Guthrie Archives to Oklahoma

Dec 28, 2011, 12:01 ET from George Kaiser Family Foundation

TULSA, Okla., Dec. 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Oklahoma soon will be home to legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie's comprehensive archives, which were recently purchased by George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) from Woody Guthrie Publications in New York.

"It is a privilege for GKFF to help bring the Woody Guthrie Archive home to Oklahoma," said Ken Levit, GKFF executive director. "The Guthrie family has inspired us through its brilliant and creative stewardship of these remarkable materials. We plan to make the Woody Guthrie Archive available to scholars, artists and the public so the story of this extraordinary Oklahoman can be told for generations to come. We look forward to working with others to create a permanent home for the collection in the Brady District and expect the Woody Guthrie Center to open in late 2012, with the archives arriving in early 2013."

"Woody Guthrie is the greatest American folk singer/songwriter of all time," said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). "His art is deeply connected to Oklahoma's people and its history. It reflects the Oklahoma experience, from mobility and immigration to diversity and the longing for a sense of community. Whether it was the Indian forced onto a reservation, a farmer looking for new land or an oilman driven to find one more gusher, Woody gave voice to their hopes and dreams."

In addition to original musical recordings, the archive includes nearly 3,000 song lyrics, many rare books by and about Guthrie, more than 700 pieces of artwork, letters and postcards, as well as manuscripts and personal journals. A key piece of the collection is Woody Guthrie's original handwritten copy of "This Land is Your Land." Also included are more than 500 photographs, handwritten songbooks, Guthrie's annotated record collection and personal papers detailing family matters, his World War II military service and musical career. Additional archived items include a research paper detailing Guthrie's mental and physical deterioration from Huntington's disease, a hereditary neurodegenerative condition that caused his death at age 55.

"Bringing this collection to Tulsa further validates the city as our nation's crossroads of creativity and enhances the community's intricate blend of art deco, jazz and Native American influences," Blackburn said. "This collection will draw a steady stream of scholars, artists and visitors to Tulsa. I can think of no other collection in terms of scope or importance that would compare."

This is the second time GKFF has been involved in preserving the Guthrie archives. In 2010, GKFF provided a grant to the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives to allow reel-to-reel audio tapes and a collection of postcards to be digitized, making them accessible for the first time to researchers, historians and musicians.

Woodrow "Woody" Wilson Guthrie was born in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1912. He is best known as a folk singer whose songs include "This Land Is Your Land,"  "Talking Dust Bowl Blues" and "Hard Travelin'." Guthrie also recorded many children's songs and tunes telling the story of the disenfranchised and working class of his era. He was also an artist, writer, radio show host and activist during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. For additional information on the archives, visit

About George Kaiser Family Foundation
George Kaiser Family Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through investments in early childhood education, community health, social services and civic enhancement. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, GKFF works primarily on initiatives developed in collaboration with Tulsa-based direct service organizations. For more information, visit

SOURCE George Kaiser Family Foundation