George Kaiser Family Foundation Acquires Woody Guthrie Archives

The Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation has announced that it has purchased the archives of the late folk singer and Oklahoma native Woody Guthrie.

In addition to original musical recordings by the man best known for writing This Land Is Your Land, the archive includes nearly 3,000 song lyrics, many rare books by and about Guthrie, more than 700 pieces of artwork, letters, and postcards, some 500 photographs, handwritten songbooks, as well as manuscripts, a personal journal, Guthrie's annotated record collection, and personal papers dealing with family matters, his World War II military service, and his musical career. Additional items include a research paper detailing Guthrie's mental and physical deterioration from Huntington's disease, a hereditary neurodegenerative condition that caused his death in 1967 at the age of 55.

The foundation is working with other groups to establish the Woody Guthrie Center in the old Tulsa Paper Company building in the city's Brady district.

According to the New York Times, the foundation paid $3 million for the archives, which will be transferred to Tulsa in 2013, and is planning a kickoff celebration on March 10 in conjunction with the University of Tulsa and a concert sponsored by the Grammy Museum featuring Woody's son, Arlo Guthrie, and other musicians. As part of a yearlong celebration of Guthrie's centennial, the Woody Guthrie Center is expected to open late in 2012.

"Woody Guthrie is the greatest American folk singer/songwriter of all time," said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. "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."

Patricia Cohen. "Bound for Local Glory at Last." New York Times 12/27/2011. "George Kaiser Family Foundation to Bring Woody Guthrie Archives to Oklahoma." George Kaiser Family Foundation Press Release 12/28/2011.