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Current Exhibits

Child Labor in Oklahoma: Photographs by Lewis Hine, 1916–1917

Lewis Hine once said "If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn't need to lug around a camera…"

Child Labor in Oklahoma: Photographs by Lewis Hine, 1916–1917 is a snapshot of images by Lewis Hine whose photography captured the soul of the child laborer in north America in the early 1900s. Although Hine focused on major cities, he did take brief trips to other parts of the country to document child labor, including Oklahoma. Hine photographed in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Lawton, Shawnee, Okmulgee, Sulphur, and a few other small communities. Cameras from Hine's era and photographs of similar subject matter from the Oklahoma Historical Society photograph archives will also be on exhibit.

Social reform photographer, Lewis Hine (1874–1940), spent thirty years photographing child labor across the United States. Hired by the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), Hine photographed children working in factories, mills, coal mines, farms, and in the streets to bring awareness to the abuse of child labor in early nineteenth century America. Children were often severely injured or fatally wounded by the unsafe working conditions. Most of the children were kept out of school and many were illiterate.

Most scholarship highlights Hine's overall life and career; little has been presented about the individual states that he visited. Hine came to Oklahoma in October of 1916, and again in March and April of 1917, as part of his photographic documentation of child labor. Oklahoma, very much an agrarian society, had only recently become a state. The photographs taken by Hine during his trips to Oklahoma were very much a contrast to those photographs taken in the highly industrialized states. While many of his photographs were taken in small factories and shops, much of his Oklahoma photography focused on cotton pickers, farmers, newspaper boys, and small country schools.

This exhibit features a free catalogue while supplies last. There will be a Curator's Talk on Thursday, November 3, from 6:00–7:30 pm. The talk is free and open to the public.

This is exhibit will be in the Chesapeake Events Center, which is used for public and private events and meetings. We recommend calling ahead to ensure the room will be open to the public the day of your visit. To contact the admissions desk please call 405-522-0765.

Curated by Theresa Bragg, Jim Meeks and Lori Oden

Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council (OHC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of OHC or NEH.

Sponsored in part by Oklahoma Humanities Sponsored in part by Oklahoma Humanities
Callie Campbell, 11 years old, picks 75 to 125 pounds of cotton a day, and totes 50 pounds of it when sack gets full. "No, I don't like it very much." Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma. October 16, 1916.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC.
15-year-old chauffeur in Oklahoma City who killed a man by careless driving. His case was dismissed because he was "too young to prosecute." Yet he was driving a taxi for a livery man and with no license. Tulsa, Oklahoma. March 1917.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC.
Charlie Scott, who lives at 19 Third St. is 9 years old and a truant newsboy. Said: "I dunno where the school is." Has been in the city 2 months. Photographed during school hours. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. March 15, 1917.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC.

Curators' Corner

Curators' Corner is a new exhibit area highlighting recent museum donations and artifacts specially chosen by the curators for the interesting stories they tell.

Among the recent acquisitions on display are quilts, military accessories, Caddo women's dance regalia, and trade goods from a store near Rainy Mountain. The recently conserved mural Trail of Tears, painted by Elizabeth Janes in 1939, will be a long-term feature. Also included is information about the profession of art and artifact conservation, and examples of objects from the museum's collections that could benefit from the work of a conservator.

Curators' Corner also features artifacts from the Merci Train. The Merci Train was a train of goods sent to the United States from citizens of France following World War II. It was a way of expressing thanks for the assistance provided by Americans during and after the war.

The artifacts in Curators' Corner will rotate approximately every six months. You can visit this exhibit in the Noble Foundation Gallery on the third floor of the Oklahoma History Center.

Oklahoma Celebrates the National Historic Preservation Act

The Oklahoma History Center's newest photographic exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of the signing of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) into law and its positive impact on historic preservation. The exhibit is located in the West Family Hall of the Oklahoma History Center. The twenty-nine images included in the display illustrate how the NHPA fosters the preservation of significant buildings, structures, sites, districts, and objects across Oklahoma.

As part of his Great Society program, President Lyndon Johnson took note of the fact that the spirit and direction of the nation are founded upon and reflected in its historic heritage. Associated with this was the awareness that historic properties significant to the nation's heritage were being lost or substantially altered, often inadvertently, with increasing frequency. President Johnson knew that governmental and private historic preservation programs of the time were inadequate to ensure a genuine opportunity for future generations to appreciate and enjoy this rich heritage. On October 15, 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act was signed. Key provisions of the law included creation of the National Register of Historic Places and allocation of matching grants to states for the identification and protection of historic properties. To qualify for the National Register, a property must meet at least one of four broad criteria: (a) they must be associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or (b) must be associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or (c) they embody distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or (d) have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

The economic boom of the post-World War II era, construction of the interstate highway system and programs such as urban renewal resulted in the loss of many properties important to Oklahoma history. Several downtown Oklahoma City landmarks were destroyed to make way for new development in the 1960s. The NHPA requires federal agencies to consider historic properties in the planning of construction projects and to consult the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and others to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects to historic properties. According to Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Melvena Heisch, approximately 3,000 federal undertakings are reviewed by the Oklahoma SHPO each year.

The State Historic Preservation Office is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. With its matching grant authorized under the NHPA, the SHPO carries out the federal preservation program in Oklahoma. This exhibit illustrates the state's diverse heritage, the variety of properties that represent that heritage, and the ways the NHPA programs help protect it.

Steamboat Heroine

This newly-expanded exhibit offers a glimpse of one of the earliest examples of western steamboats ever discovered.

2016 marked 178 years since the sinking of the Heroine, an 1830s side paddle wheel steamboat that is the subject of one of the History Center's most popular exhibits. On May 6, 1838, Heroine was navigating the Red River on its way to Fort Towson to deliver much-needed supplies to the soldiers stationed there. Just twenty minutes from its destination, Heroine hit a snag and quickly sank. The passengers survived, but the supplies and the ship were lost. In 1999 the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University were notified that the remnants of a ship had been exposed. Combining their efforts and resources, these institutions excavated the site, identified the ship and conserved many pieces of the structure.

Although the majority of the superstructure of the Heroine had long since disintegrated, the surviving components were used to create an representation of the original vessel, as well as a look into the lives of the people of that era. Among the artifacts found in the wreckage were a number of personal items belonging to the crew and passengers. Articles of clothing, food stuffs, and pieces of equipment used daily were salvaged. After a great deal of research into journals, diaries, archaeological evidence, and period paintings, a second deck has been assembled. The Heroine consisted of two decks: the lower deck that contained the mechanical and operational components and the upper deck with living quarters and a dining area. These areas have been reconstructed to offer a vivid reproduction of a colorful chapter of our history. This exhibit is on display in the Kerr-McGee Gallery.

Crossroads of Commerce: A History of Free Enterprise in Oklahoma

Now on exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center is "Crossroads of Commerce: A History of Free Enterprise in Oklahoma." This exhibit tells the story of economic development in Oklahoma through five time periods from 1716 to the present day. In each section, the exhibit sets the stage of history with the challenges and opportunities that ended one era and began another. Onto that stage will march the men and women who had ideas, decided to invest and developed a business plan that worked in that particular place and time. The rest of the story is adapting to subsequent changes, opening doors of opportunity for others, and giving back to the community through jobs, philanthropy, and a better quality of life. The intent is to connect the dots between history and economic development in a way that celebrates creativity and hard work and inspires young people to take a chance.

The exhibit features a number of structural reproductions and interactive opportunities. Visitors will see an actual truss from the Wiley Post Hangar and enter the simulated cockpit of a Lockheed Vega airplane. Other features include scenes of a newspaper printing operation, grist mill, cotton gin, grain elevator, Cain's Ballroom, a TG&Y store in the 1950s, the studios of WKY-Radio and WKY-TV, the Shelter Church Studio, and the Thunder scoreboard from Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Read more at NewsOK.com

Tipi with Battle Pictures

While doing regular upkeep on the American Indian collections housed within the Oklahoma Museum of History, an Oklahoma History Center curator discovered a rolled canvas tipi that had been forgotten for many years. This tipi is known as the Tipi with Battle Pictures. The tradition and history embodied by this tipi can be traced ultimately to 1833 when Little Bluff became the sole leader of the Kiowa people.

This rare artifact is on exhibit in the Gaylord Special Exhibits gallery.

On Behalf of the Pioneers: The Oklahoma Century Chest 1913-2013

The Century Chest time capsule was buried on April 22, 1913, in the basement of the First Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City. One hundred years later, on April 22, 2013, the church opened the chest and revealed the perfectly preserved contents deposited by the pioneers of Oklahoma. The exhibit opening marks the 125th anniversary of the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889.

Visitors can view never-before-seen photographs, documents and American Indian artifacts and hear Oklahoma pioneer Angelo C. Scott's speech delivered at the burial of the chest in 1913. The exhibit also includes the 1889 poster promoting the first Fourth of July celebration in Oklahoma City on July 4, 1889, a letter to the blind of 2013 written in braille, the First State Flag of Oklahoma, the pen used by President William McKinley to sign the Free Homes Bill for Oklahoma and a 1913 bird's-eye view photograph of Oklahoma City showing the city like never before. In addition the exhibit contains dozens of messages, prophecies and letters from the pioneers of 1913 to their descendants 100 years later. Call 405-522-0765 for more information or visit www.okhistory.org/centurychest.