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Current Exhibits

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.

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Smoke Over Oklahoma: The Railroad Photographs of Preston George

Explore the photography of Preston George and the historical importance of railroads in the new exhibit Smoke Over Oklahoma: The Railroad Photographs of Preston George. This exhibit includes twenty-five images of different railroad lines that passed through Oklahoma, such as the Katy and the Frisco, and the heavier duty locomotives of the Kansas City Southern and the Santa Fe lines. The exhibit also features images of various metro lines and trolleys. These images are included in a recent book by the same title, Smoke Over Oklahoma: the Railroad Photographs of Preston George by Augustus J. Veenendaal Jr. The book is available for purchase in the Oklahoma History Center Museum Store.

The Art of War: WWI Posters from the Oscar Jacobson Collection

This exhibit commemorates the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I on April 6, 1917. On display are twenty-two posters from the Oscar Jacobson Collection. Jacobson was the first director of the School of Art at the University of Oklahoma and the first director of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. The poster was an integral tool for broad dissemination of information during World War I. Countries on both sides of the conflict distributed posters widely to garner support, urge action, and boost morale. During World War I, the impact of the poster as a means of communication was greater than at any other time during history. As a valuable historical research resource, the posters provide multiple points of view for understanding this global conflict. As artistic works, the posters range in style from graphically vibrant works by well-known designers to anonymous broadsides. The posters express various themes such as food issues (shortages and rationing), enlistment and recruitment ("Uncle Sam Wants You"), and finance (war bonds).

Prints of the various posters are available for purchase in the Museum Store.

This exhibit is located 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.

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.

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.

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 marked 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. Visit okhistory.org/centurychest to find out more.