You are here
Home > Arts & Entertainment > Gordon ‘Ollie’ Wareham named Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum director

Gordon ‘Ollie’ Wareham named Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum director

BIG CYPRESS — The legacy of Billy L. Cypress, the first director of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, lives on in his nephew
Gordon “Ollie” Wareham, who is its new director.

“My uncle always wanted tribal members to come and be inspired,” Wareham said. “Now, 25 years later at age 50, I get
to follow in his footsteps to inspire the next generation as he inspired me.”

Before he applied for the position, Wareham, who previously served as the Hollywood Board representative, reached
out to tribal members to get their thoughts about it.

“Tribal members supported me,” he said. “They said ‘it’s your time’ so I put in the application.”

Gordon “Ollie” Wareham (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Paul Backhouse, Heritage and Environmental Resource Office senior director and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, hired Wareham.

“He’s an all-around nice guy and has a real love of Seminole history, culture and art,” Backhouse said. “It’s funny how it all worked out; the original director’s nephew is now the director. I think that’s a huge accomplishment for the tribe, the museum and the whole organization.”

Wareham, who started the job Oct. 18, has plenty of goals for the museum. Although the museum currently has a smaller staff than usual because of the ongoing pandemic, 57% of museum employees are tribal members. Wareham wants to increase that to 70%.

“I want each employee to have a positive experience and learn something about themselves while they are here,” he said.

Another goal is to create a footprint for the museum on each reservation to be a resource for the Culture Department,
preschools, seniors and other departments with its collections and photos. Wareham wants the museum to go into the communities and not wait for them to come to it. He plans to be proactive so tribal members know the museum is there for them when they need information.

“I think it’s vital that tribal members talk to other tribal members,” he said. “That’s why I want our staff to be 70% tribal members; with that resource it would be easier for us to send people out to the communities more often.”

Wareham is no stranger to the world of art, culture and museums. He has been a member of the board of trustees at the History Fort Lauderdale museum for three years.

“When we started doing shows and events and bringing artists in, I wanted to make sure their voices and art were being respected,” Wareham said. “That’s why I joined the board; so we weren’t taken advantage of.”

(A new exhibition of 25 Seminole artists, “A Return to Self: The Art of Healing,” opened Nov. 21 at History Fort Lauderdale).

After he got the job at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, Wareham spoke to his aunt Carol Cypress.

“She was ecstatic that I got this position,” he said. “She told me she was praying that a tribal member would get it.
When she got the news, she felt like her prayers were answered.”

Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at