One of the many things that we like about our RV lifestyle is that we get to meet people from all over the country as we travel. Many of these folks become dear friends and we keep up with where they are and what they are doing. Whenever possible, we try to meet up with them during our travels. That was the case this time with our friends Corinne and James. They were traveling from the northeast to the southwest and we were traveling from the northwest to the southeast. We realized that our paths would cross somewhere in the middle of the country. We decided to meet them near Oklahoma City and spend a few days together. It was great to “catch up” and spend time with them.
David and I had been in Oklahoma City on a previous trip west and had visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum but our friends had not so we went there together one day since it is one of the most memorable museums that we have ever visited. Even our second visit was unforgettable.
The Museum recounts the events surrounding the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. The interactive displays bring you the details of the events of the day. Through video clips and exhibits, they also portray the heroic actions of the first responders who worked tirelessly for 16 days to rescue the survivors of the blast and to find the 168 people who perished in that terrorist attack on our country. Visitors hear the voices of survivors and first responders as they recount their experiences. The Museum also has a section where they document the investigation, apprehension, and trial of the perpetrators. The Oklahoma City Memorial Museum provides a wealth of information about this tragic event in U.S. history.
After seeing the Museum, we went to the Memorial itself which is build on the site where the former Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood. This beautifully constructed Memorial with its lovely reflection pool is flanked on one side with a field of empty chairs that represent the lives lost on that fateful day. Etched in each chair is the name of one American who perished as a result of this attack. This Memorial is not only a way to remember those lost on that day but it also stands as a testament to the resilience of the Oklahoma City community.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the “Top 10 Museums in America” (according to Yelp) and is the “#1 Thing to Do in Oklahoma” (according to Trip Advisor). After visiting it, we agree with both Yelp and Trip Advisor.
In the afternoon, we made our way to another notable site, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Founded in 1955, this outstanding museum has an extensive collection of Western and Native American art and cultural artifacts. When you visit, you can find not only exquisite art but also more than 28,000 artifacts. It has more than 200,000 square feet of exhibit space. To give you a sense of the Museum’s extraordinary collection, here are just a few of the item found in the galleries:
The William S. and Ann Atherton Gallery is a large exhibit space with the works of famed Frederic Remington, Charles Marion Russell, Robert Henri, LeRoy Neiman and many other 19th and 20th century artists.
The Arthur and Shifra Silberman Gallery of Native American Art and the Native American Gallery focuses on a number of Native American tribes and their bead work, pottery, carvings, clothing, and much more.
The American Cowboy Gallery features the life and work of the American cowboy. It presents the history and culture of this lifestyle from Spanish Colonial times to the 20th century. There are many exhibits of cowboy equipment, such as, saddles, spurs, chaps, bits, etc. as well as life-sized representations of cowboys in their garb out on the ranch.
The Weitzenhoffer Gallery of Fine American Firearms has over 100 firearms manufactured by Colt, Remington, Smith & Wesson, Sharps, and others. This display highlights the decorative arts seen on firearms from the second half of the 19th century. In the museum you can also find one of Anne Oakley’s guns.
The American Rodeo Gallery is a 6,500 square foot exhibit space that recreates the iconic 1950s rodeo arena with corrals and viewing areas that you can walk through to learn more about this activity.
Prosperity Junction is a replica of a cattle town from the early 20th century. This 14,000 sq. ft. exhibit space provides you with an idea of what small Western towns were like with their depot, sheriff’s office, church, doctor’s office, schoolhouse, livery, blacksmith, and grocery store. You can walk inside many of the buildings to get a more “up close” experience.
The Robert and Grace Eldridge Prix de West Gallery was one of my favorite galleries because it has the works of the Prix de West award winners. Since 1973, the National Academy of Western Art has presented an award to the best contemporary work of Western art produced in a given year. Over the years, the Museum has collected the artwork of these award winners and it is on display here.
Some of the most impressive works given their size were those of Wilson Hurley, one of America’s best landscape artists and winner of the Prix de West award. There are five large triptychs, entitled Windows to the West, were painted between 1992-1996. Each one measure 16 feet by 46 feet. Hurley designed the interior of the Museum’s Sam Noble Special Events Center to display these paintings.
There are numerous sculptures on display both inside the museum building and throughout the outdoor gardens. Perhaps the three most famous ones are featured inside near the main entrance and on either end of the main hallway. James Earle Fraser’s work called the “End of the Trail” is a massive sculpture that greets you as you enter the museum. Another one of his works, a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln graces one end of the museum. On the opposite end is Gerald Balciar’s bronze sculpture of a female cougar called “Canyon Princess.”
The National Cowboy and Western Culture Museum hosts more than 10 million visitors annually and we could certainly understand why it is so popular. Our only regret is that we did not allow enough time to see everything that this museum has to offer.
Oklahoma City has some wonderful things to see and do. Visiting some of them with our friends made the experiences even more memorable.
Lunch with friends at Earls’s in OKC.