Plan a trip back in time to discover the history and culture that is Oklahoma.
Oklahoma is a state rich in history and culture. The following is just a partial listing of sites and centers that will not only provide you with an enjoyable afternoon of activity, but will also have you brushing up on some state (and regional) historical trivia.
The Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, which spans 18 acres and 215,000 square feet, explores the state’s past in areas like geology, transportation, commerce, culture, aviation and heritage. The center is located near the Oklahoma State Capitol and has four semi-permanent galleries, special events hall and outdoor exhibits.
The Tulsa Historical Society & Museum provides a look into Tulsa’s past with eight rotating exhibit galleries focusing on local history. Over the summer, the museum is running multiple exhibits, including Designing Tulsa: Oil Capital Architects, running until August, and A Ship Named Tulsa: Three Stories of Namesake Vessels, running through March 2017. Ongoing exhibits at the museum include a virtual exhibit on the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, Tulsa’s Art Deco & Public Art and Timeline of Tulsa History: A Brief Journey through Tulsa’s Past. The museum also hosts downtown walking tours on the last Friday of every month, and reservations are required.
The Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa preserves the history of an area called “Black Wall Street” by Booker T. Washington and is located in the Greenwood District, one of the most historically significant parts of Tulsa. The center has a collection of historical exhibits and photos from before, during and after the 1921 Tulsa race riot and offers guided tours from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday.
In Muskogee, the Five Civilized Tribes Museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year by focusing on the art and culture of each tribe, drawing work from the museum’s archives. Located in a sandstone building dating back to the 1870s, the museum is a storehouse of Native American cultural history, containing an archive larger than can ever be displayed, according to Executive Director Sean Barney.
One of Oklahoma’s most famous native sons is celebrated at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore. The museum has 12 galleries with photographs and manuscripts documenting Rogers’ life as a trick roper, Vaudeville performer, movie star, radio commentator, newspaper columnist and author. The site, originally acquired by Rogers to build a retirement home, also contains his tomb, which is chiseled with his famous quotation: “I never met a man I didn’t like.”
Oklahoma and the surrounding area is also home to multiple historic battlefields. The Honey Springs Battlefield Historic Site, located east of U.S. Highway 69 between Oktaha and Rentiesville, was home to the largest of more than 107 documented hostile encounters in Indian Territory during the Civil War. Other Civil War battle sites in the area include Cabin Creek Battlefield, located near Big Cabin, and Pea Ridge National Military Park, a 4,300 acre battlefield near Garfield, Arkansas. Pea Ridge was one of the most pivotal Civil War battles and is the most intact Civil War battlefield in the U.S.
Texas has also been the home of numerous battles, including the famous Alamo Mission in San Antonio. The site is home to multiple exhibits, including one donated by musician Phil Collins, and offers tours of the legendary area. Also in Texas is the San Jacinto Museum of History, located near Houston at the site of the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. The museum is home to the San Jacinto Monument, a 567-foot-high tower commemorating the Battle of San Jacinto. The tower is the world’s tallest masonry column.
There are numerous other historical sites in the areas surrounding Oklahoma. Kansas City is home to the National World War I Museum, which explores the history of the war through original objects, documents, video and recreated trenches and interactive tables. The museum also hosts limited-run exhibits that tell newly curated stories of World War I.
Fans of Mark Twain should visit the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Missouri, hosting collections and permanent exhibitions related to the author. The museum holds many of Twain’s personal artifacts, as well as an extensive collection of printed materials. Branson, Missouri is home of the Titanic Museum Attraction, a two-story museum that holds 400 artifacts in 20 galleries.