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75 Years of Television in Oklahoma exhibit opens

July 25

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A new exhibit, 75 Years of Television in Oklahoma, opens on July 25 at the Oklahoma History Center Museum.

The public is invited to a free reception to celebrate the exhibit’s opening on Thursday, July 25, from 5 to 7 p.m. No RSVP is needed. Light refreshments will be served. Gene Allen, author of The Vision and the Dream: WKY-TV Comes to Oklahoma, will attend to sign copies of his book, which will also be available for purchase from the Oklahoma History Center Museum Store. The new exhibit will be the only one open for viewing during the event.

On June 6, 1949, at 7 p.m., WKY-TV went on the air, introducing television to Oklahoma audiences. At the time, television was a new medium, touted as “a modern miracle” by The Daily Oklahoman newspaper. While technicians and photographers grappled with cameras and equipment, reporters wrote and rehearsed their scripts to make the newest means of communication a reality. Those early industry pioneers were on the cutting edge of producing television news, providing weather and tornado alerts, and tracking the achievements of the state’s teams and athletes.

Ten years earlier, crowds had come by the thousands to the Municipal Auditorium in Oklahoma City on November 13, 1939, to see the first television images in Oklahoma at a demonstration sponsored by WKY Radio. Despite television being a financial drain on broadcasters who had tried it before, E. K. Gaylord believed the medium would be popular with viewers, so he applied for a license and was granted the first station in Oklahoma.

As Oklahoma began the new venture, the invention of television became a real turning point in American culture, effectively improving the economy and creating a paradigm shift in how people experienced entertainment and shared information.

When television was in its infancy in the state, programming sometimes ended at 7 p.m. due to the limited programming. The new trend brought entertainment to life in people’s living rooms with moving pictures. Singers, entertainers, and performances were suddenly brought to life on the small screen that could only previously be seen in an auditorium or heard on the radio.

Technicians, engineers, programmers, writers, art directors, and costume designers collaborated to popularize locally generated personalities of the 1950s and 60s, such as Foreman Scotty, 3D Danny, The Tom Paxton Show, The Bud Wilkinson Football show, and many other local favorites. This exhibit features a collection of images from early post-war black-and-white sets that revisit the era when a generation of Baby Boomers was raised on the innovative creativity of television.


July 25
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Oklahoma History Center Museum
800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive Oklahoma City, OK 73105