Tulsa becoming a Guthrie research destination
BY LARRY GUTHRIE
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
7/11/12 at 3:22 AM
Woody Guthrie's life at times may have resembled his song, "I Ain't Got No Home," but his words, drawings, writings and music he left behind have found homes fit for a king.
His manuscripts are often written in a simple style on notebook paper in pencil, but they can fetch between $10,000 and $50,000 per page at auction. They are housed in some of the greatest institutions in the world.
In a letter to the Library of Congress, Woody said, "I just got a copy of my song book that you printed up. ...This is a sure nuff classy job of printing up this book... I don't guess the senators knew what was going on, or the president either, or they would have left off the copying of these books."
The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., is one archival home of Woody's letters, recordings and photos. The American Folklife Center houses the Alan Lomax Collection from the 1930s and early 1940s and includes four hours of music and comments entitled, "The Library of Congress Recording Sessions." Some tracks were released in 1964 by Elektra Records as, "Woody Guthrie: Library of Congress Recordings."
In addition, "Woody Guthrie and the Archive of American Folk Song, Correspondence, 1940-1950" presents letters between Woody Guthrie and the staff of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress.
A second home of Guthrie's archival trail is the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage houses the "Woody Guthrie Papers" - typed song lyrics, correspondence, drawings and newspaper clippings - in the Moses Asch Collection. The Folkways Records collection also includes Woody Guthrie's watercolor and pen-and-ink drawings.
Smithsonian Folkways has produced numerous Woody Guthrie recordings, including most recently "Woody At 100: the Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection," which was released Tuesday. It includes a 150-page book and three CDs with 57 tracks to commemorate Woody's 100th birthday on Saturday. Woody's 100th birthday will be celebrated at the Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, Wednesday through Sunday.
The third major archival home of Woody Guthrie works will soon be in Tulsa at the Woody Guthrie Center at 116 E. Brady St. Moving from Mount Kisko, N.Y., the Woody Guthrie Archives was purchased by the George Kaiser Family Foundation for $3 million to come home to Tulsa.
It is hard to overestimate the importance of this collection to Woody Guthrie devotees, researchers, historians and collectors worldwide. Their presence in Tulsa may redefine the city as a research destination.
Tiffany Colannino, archivist of the Woody Guthrie Archives, said, "It is the largest Woody Guthrie collection in the world and the most varied." The transition of the archives to Tulsa will be completed by 2013.
In a This Land interview, Stanton Doyle, senior program director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, describes the archives as approximately 200 square feet of manuscripts and other archival materials, including thousands of pages of song lyrics. The most treasured is likely the original "This Land Is Your Land."
So as the archives return to "the Oklahoma Hills Where I Was Born," the enduring monument is that they are the embodiment of where the inspired pen met paper.
Guthrie, a military veteran, displayed a lifelong loyalty to the spirit of Oklahoma's state motto, "Labor Omnia Vincit" (Labor Conquers All). Woody loved labor unions.
Woven in between the pages of these very valuable manuscripts is the fire and compassion of a man who saw the struggle and suffering of working people and tried to ease it, and who stood up to powerful interests and demanded social justice for all.
Larry Guthrie is a native Oklahoman and professional law librarian for 23 years in Washington, D.C. His grandfather and Woody's father lived in Okfuskee County in 1912 when Woody was born there.
Woody Guthrie, a military veteran, displayed a lifelong loyalty to the spirit of Oklahoma's state motto, "Labor Omnia Vincit" (Labor Conquers All). Associated Press file
Larry Guthrie: The presence of the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa may redefine the city as a research destination