Historical Museums Bring History to Life
By EMILY RAMSEY
MUSIC AT THE MANSION: Anthony Conroy plays the cello at Music at the Mansion, held at the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum, in February. The event is held on the third Thursday of the month and features local performers.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
We can’t know where we’re going unless we know where we came from. That well-known saying continues to be repeated because of its absolute truth. It reminds humans of the importance of history in shaping the future.
While Jenks residents don’t have a designated historical society or museum to trace back its city’s history, items and documents from the city’s past are on file with the city and chamber, says Nick DeMoss, Jenks Chamber of Commerce Director of Communications. “When we get calls from residents with a specific request, we can access those files to try to find what they are looking for.”
Another resource for Jenks citizens is the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum, 2445 S. Peoria Ave., which resides in the historic Sam Travis Mansion, which holds historical archives for much of the greater Tulsa area.
The museum features eight rotating exhibits of historical topics and time periods that all center around Tulsa; archives dating back to the 18th century of photographs, newspaper articles, films, maps and books; and a wide supply and range of Tulsa-centric books for sale in its gift area.
The mansion is an exhibit in itself, originally built in 1919 by Sam Travis, with Sam’s brother, Dave, building a complementary mansion to the north, now the Tulsa Garden Center. While the mansion has gone through many renovations, it still maintains remnants of its original features and layout. Additionally, there are photos displayed throughout the museum of the home in its original form.
The museum’s main exhibit hall sits near the museum’s main entrance and, starting in March, will explore Tulsa in the 1950s.
“On average, we change out exhibits every month or so, so if you haven’t been in a year, then you’ve missed eight stories about Tulsa,” says Maggie Brown, the museum’s director of exhibits.
Smaller exhibits found on the second floor currently feature information on the Tulsa Race Riot and the Greenwood and Woodward Park areas and display various children’s toys from the 1900s.
Also opening in March will be a gallery that targets children and teenagers. It will be called Then and Now, says Neal Pascoe, director of education. Pascoe is a former principal with Tulsa Public Schools.
“Its emphasis will be on enabling kids to see things as they were and how they are now, with the purpose of encouraging intergenerational conversations,” he says.
The Tulsa Historical Society also offers a number of free programs that are available to groups.
Programs explore Tulsa’s historic movie theaters and culinary history, offer tales of Oklahoma outlaws, and provide the history of mail-order houses and the beginnings of churches and the education system in Tulsa in the late 1800s.
One program that welcomes both group and individual reservations is the organization’s downtown walking tours, which explore downtown Tulsa’s art deco buildings that line Boston Avenue. The tour costs $5 and takes place on the last Friday of each month.
In May, the museum will open an exhibit exploring the history of the Oklahoma Military Academy and offer a special showing of a film about the academy.
This summer, the historical society will launch a weeklong kids’ summer camp, where students will work with a different artist each day in different mediums.
Book readings and signings are also regularly offered, and on the third Thursday of each month, in partnership with the Hyechka Club, Music at the Mansion takes place in the mansion’s ballroom.
The Hyechka (the Creek Indian word for music) Club arranges the monthly performances.
Another feature of the historical museum is its Vintage Garden and Five Moons, which sit on the west side of the mansion. Local artifacts are scattered throughout the garden, many of them architectural elements from buildings that have been torn down: tiles from Skelly Oil Company’s original building that sat at 4th Street and Boulder Avenue in the 1920s, the Cupola from the East Second Library that sat at 2537 E 2nd St., and the dedication plaque of the 21st Street Bridge.
The Five Moons are five statues that represent the five Native American ballerinas who gained worldwide fame for their talent.
For anyone searching for specific Tulsa details, the historical society’s archives are available to the public upon request.
We are always getting calls from people with questions about something pertaining to Tulsa history or who want to bring items (for the archives) by, says Pascoe.
For example, Pascoe recently spoke with an individual who was inquiring about Tulsa’s Skyline Amusement Park, which used to be located near Jenks. “And the other day, a man walked in the door with photos of Tulsa before statehood,” he says.