August 12, 2016
Oklahoma History Center Exhibit Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma History Center announces the opening of its newest photographic exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) into law and its positive impact on historic preservation. The exhibit will open August 15, 2016, and will be located in the West Family Hall of the History Center. It may be viewed Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The 29 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. For example, 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. The photo exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center illustrates the state’s diverse heritage, the variety of properties that represent that heritage and the ways the NHPA programs help protect it.
The Oklahoma History Center is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, National Archives and is an accredited member of the American Alliance of Museums. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.