OKC History & Heritage
Any stay in Oklahoma City can be enriched with a visit to one of its history museums. The offerings are quality and diverse, and each presents some aspect of the region, people and achievements.
Oklahoma History Center
A wonderful place to start exploring the state’s history is the Oklahoma History Center, celebrating 10 years in its architecturally-dynamic building near the state Capitol. A new major exhibition, the “Crossroads of Commerce,” touts the state’s business history from the late 1600s up to current times. This colorful, immersive exhibit features an array of artifacts, including several original signs from commercial enterprises. Explore the permanent collection showcasing the state’s history and be sure to view the exhibit highlighting the 39 federally recognized American Indian tribes currently associated with Oklahoma. Native American history is one of the most requested subjects.
First Americans Museum
In one place, visitors will experience the collective histories of 39 distinctive First American Nations. The First Americans Museum showcases state-of-the-art exhibitions in First American history, culture and art; live public and educational programs; a full-service restaurant presenting unique Native-inspired cuisine; and a museum store featuring authentic one-of-a-kind hand-made items or products by premiere First American artists.
Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum
The story of one of Oklahoma City’s most formidable events unfolds on these now sacred grounds. The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is comprised of two distinct but eternally interwoven parts. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is a place of quiet reflection, open to all 24 hours a day, year-round. With the Field of Empty Chairs, Gates of Time and Reflecting Pool, it honors those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever on April 19, 1995. The state-of-the-art Memorial Museum takes visitors on self-guided tours through this tragic event and the national response that followed, with the help of interactive touch screens, videos and artifacts.
Oklahoma Hall of Fame
The Oklahoma Hall of Fame at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum tells the story of the state’s people. Learn how the heritage of Oklahoma sons and daughters like pilot Wiley Post, singer Reba McEntire and astronaut Shannon Lucid contributed to their accomplishments. Induction into the Hall of Fame is regarded as the state’s highest honor. Here Oklahomans past and present, famous and not-so-famous, paint a picture of the state’s history in their portrayal of the five characteristics of Oklahomans — perseverance, pioneer spirit, optimism, generosity and individualism. In this restored, stately 1920s building with a rich history of its own, find inspiration and pride in the nation’s 46th state. In addition to its annual Hall of Fame Induction Banquet, the museum hosts an annual Statehood Day Festival each November with family-friendly activities and free admission.
Oklahoma National Guard Museum
Oklahoma National Guard Museum features wide-ranging collections covering from the Revolutionary War era to today’s Oklahomans and their current involvement in the War on Terror. Highlights include one of the finest collections of American military weapons and original drawings by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin whose characters, Willie and Joe, chronicled the lives of infantrymen in World War II. The Oklahoma National Guard Museum’s 15-acre park features tanks, artillery, personnel carriers, aircraft and the Thunderbird Monument. This tribute is to soldiers who served in World War II and Korea, as well as those who continue to serve in Oklahoma’s National Guard. Nearing a century in existence, the 45th Infantry has strong ties to Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum preserves and embodies the histories and cultures of the American West, part of the nation’s identity and heritage. Explore the vast, diverse history and artistry of the American West through fine art and artifacts, educational classes and demonstrations. The museum is large, making it possible to spend several hours or return for additional visits. Permanent and temporary exhibitions are boosted by a variety of events, including the annual Western Family Weekend and National Day of the American Cowboy. Each summer, visitors delight in a prestigious contemporary art exhibition and sale known as Prix de West.
In the shadow of the state Capitol, you will find a chance to step back in time at the Historic Harn Homestead Museum. With a stop at this scenic outdoor complex, learn about territorial life in Oklahoma on property claimed during one of the famed land runs that led to settlement. You are welcome anytime during public hours, which vary by season. Check out the schedule for guided tours of the Queen-Anne style, Victorian home, which take 30 to 60 minutes. For true old-fashioned fun, pack a picnic for the beautiful outdoor setting.
Oklahoma City’s history museums are scattered in different locations, adding to their ease-of-access and appeal. Sampled in combination with the art, science, children’s and zoological offerings, they constitute well-rounded entertainment and educational attractions that make the city a wonderful destination for weekend getaways and extended stays.