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Sam Noble Museum Receives Federal Grant to Improve Online Access to Native American Languages Collection

Sam Noble Museum Receives Federal Grant to Improve Online Access to Native American Languages Collection

Mockup of the NLC website

The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History has received a $345,494 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a three-year project to provide online access to the museum’s Native American Languages collection for the first time. This is the largest total NEH grant received by an individual investigator at the University of Oklahoma and the second-largest collaborative NEH grant ever awarded to OU.

“This is an incredibly important step in the evolution of our collection,” said Raina Heaton, Ph.D., assistant curator of Native American languages and assistant professor of Native American studies at the University of Oklahoma. “Access to materials, particularly for those Indigenous people whose intellectual property this is, has always been a challenge for archives like ours that were originally designed around in-person visitation. There are so many possibilities associated with sharing collections online; we are excited to be working with our partners to make digital access to the collections a reality.”

Heaton Portrait

Raina Heaton, Ph.D.

scanned page

A page out of Carolyn Quintero's field notes on the language, and an example of the kinds of items that will be accessible through the website.

Through this project, the open access collection materials curated by the museum will be made publicly available for browsing and download, free of charge, on a new website. It marks the next step for the collection, building on the work of a previous NEH grant that funded workshops with community and academic partners to create the framework for a user-oriented interface to eliminate logistical problems in providing access to language materials, and strengthens relationships with Native community partners by enacting respectful and open stewardship practices in the digital space.

Kimberly Marshall, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology and the faculty director of the OU Arts and Humanities Forum said, “the Native American Languages collection at the Sam Noble provides invaluable resources to researchers, educators, students, and to Tribal communities throughout Oklahoma.”

The collection currently contains approximately 9,000 items representing nearly 1,300 languages. Examples of some of the types of materials that will be made available include manuscripts, maps, games, field notes, audio and video recordings, correspondence, ethnobiological field guides, education and teaching materials, descriptive materials, reference resources, translations, transcriptions, memorabilia, and media productions in Native languages.

The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History is located on the OU Norman campus at J. Willis Stovall Road and Chautauqua Avenue. For accommodations, call (405) 325-7977 or visit

This article was originally published by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships.

Article Published:  Wednesday, April 20, 2022