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Current Exhibits

Votes for Women

The Oklahoma History Center is celebrating the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in Oklahoma with a new exhibit. Votes for Women features twenty-eight black-and-white photographs from the Oklahoma Historical Society’s archives and the Library of Congress highlighting some of the key moments and events, and the people who fearlessly led the way. Three reproduction postcard illustrations will also be on exhibit.

This exhibit will be on display in the Chesapeake Event Center and Gallery through September 2019. This room also is utilized for meetings and events. Please call in advance to make sure the exhibit is open to the public on the day of your visit.

On March 16, 1917, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a resolution allowing a referendum on the suffrage amendment in the November 2018 general election. On November 5, 1918, the suffrage amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution was ratified by a vote of 106,909 to 81,481. Equal suffrage nationwide for white women was not granted until 1920 with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. African-American women did not get full voting rights until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Oklahoma women continued to fight until 1942 for the right to hold state executive offices.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!: The Birth of Modern Musical Theatre and a New Image for the State

The Oklahoma History Center’s exhibit, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!: The Birth of Modern Musical Theatre and a New Image for the State celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Broadway production’s debut. 

Based on the 1931 play Green Grow the Lilacs by Claremore native Lynn Riggs, Oklahoma! was the first musical written by the legendary team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! began a new era in American musical theatre. It also began the most successful songwriting partnership that Broadway has ever seen.

Oklahoma! premiered on Broadway at the St. James Theatre on March 31, 1943, and closed after 2,212 performances. Set in Indian Territory just after the turn of the twentieth century, the spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys provides the backdrop for the love story between Curly, a handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a beautiful farm girl.

The title of the History Center exhibit makes reference to a “New Image for the State.” In 1939 John Steinbeck published his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, a fictional account of the mass migration of thousands of “Okies” from Oklahoma to California in search of jobs, land, dignity and a future in the shadow of the Great Depression. The novel cast an image of hopelessness, bank foreclosures and economic hardship on Oklahoma. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! counteracted this image with its lively musical comedy that, despite a few fight scenes that include an accidental death, portrayed romance, laughter and a spirit of joy in direct contrast to the storyline of The Grapes of Wrath.

Explore More with Google Arts & Culture

Visit the Oklahoma Historical Society on Google Arts & Culture to learn about playwright Lynn Riggs, the early history of the state, and the lasting impact of the musical Oklahoma!

Welcome Home: Oklahomans and the War in Vietnam

Welcome Home: Oklahomans and the War in Vietnam exhibit looks at more than the historic events that occurred during the war. It explores the impact of the war on Oklahoma families, as told through the stories of the young men and women who served their country in the armed services and the immigrant families who fled Vietnam and came to Oklahoma seeking freedom and opportunity.

The story begins with a look at the family histories of Oklahomans who served in Vietnam. This opening section concludes with the stories of young people from those families who volunteered to serve their country in the armed services during the war.

The second section explores the roots of Vietnamese families that eventually relocated to Oklahoma. It also follows American military personnel and Vietnamese families onto the stage of war during the 1960s and 1970s. This includes stories of those in uniform, both American and Vietnamese, as well as stories of civilians whose lives were changed forever.

The next section tells the Vietnamese refugees’ harrowing stories of escape as they left all they had known in their homeland to obtain safety, security, and opportunity in the United States. While they left under varying circumstances, they shared the common goal of a new life. The fourth and final section of the exhibit brings Oklahoma-born military personnel and immigrants back to Oklahoma, where their stories continue as they deal with challenges and seize opportunities. The exhibit provides a contemporary portrait of Oklahoma’s diversity set against the backdrop of historic events.

In preparation for Welcome Home: Oklahomans and the War in Vietnam, the Oklahoma History Center transported a newly acquired Huey helicopter to Oklahoma City. This addition to the exhibit honors those who stepped up and served in the War in Vietnam and was donated by native Oklahoman Bob Ford, who said, “Any Army pilot or crew member who had the privilege to fly the Huey in combat loves it; it never let us down.”

The aircraft came from Weatherford, Texas, escorted by the Oklahoma Patriot Guard Riders. The Huey was installed the following day and is suspended from the History Center atrium.

NewsOK.com shared more info about the exhibit in a recent article: Wall That Heals and new exhibit explore Vietnam War's impact on local families.

Pictured above, left: First Lieutenant Bob Ford in Hue, South Vietnam, January 1968. Right: Ban Nguyen with his father and sister in South Vietnam. Ban is an operating partner of Jimmy’s Egg restaurants, which is owned by his father-in-law Loc Le.