By EMILY RAMSEY
BRADY DISTRICT DRAW: Bob Blackburn, left, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, stands with Jeff Moore, who has been named the director of the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture (OKPOP). Moore has been with the Oklahoma Historical Society since 1995. The OKPOP Museum passed in the state House of Representatives in May, after a second voting attempt, with a vote of 51-40.
Courtesy Tulsa Historical Society
After a wild ride in the state House of Representatives in May, the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture (OKPOP) passed on a second voting attempt 51-40.
Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, has spent close to 30 years championing this type of project in Tulsa. Recently, Jeff Moore, who has been with the Oklahoma Historical Society since 1995, was named the director of the OKPOP Museum.
recently spoke with Blackburn and Moore regarding just what Tulsans can expect in the years to come.
Midtown Monitor: Why is this project so important to you?
Bob Blackburn: All of the time that I’ve been with the Historical Society, I’ve wanted a base in Tulsa, because I have always felt that Tulsa has been underserved. We have always been more concentrated in central and rural Oklahoma.
With the partners and the funding plan that we have developed, OKPOP is the best plan to support our goal of providing an institutional base to grow education and collection in this area.
This museum is also the most marketable because its theme will appeal to so many, and it can reach beyond the traditional museum community, to include young, old, out of state and in state.
This will be a once in a lifetime museum.
MM: Why was the Brady Arts District chosen as the location?
BB: We needed the museum to be close to a historic site. In the Brady District, we have the Greenwood community, Brady Theater, Cain’s Ballroom and all the stories of this area.
Also, this location affords us the opportunity to work closely with the other cultural institutions nearby, and we need to be in a high-traffic, highly visible area, adjacent to other businesses and easy highway accessibility. OKPOP needs to see 100,000 paid visitors per year for this plan to be viable.
MM: What exhibits are you most anticipating?
BB: Many people, including myself, grew up reading Dick Tracy comics and watching his movies. So Dick Tracy creator, Chester Gould, born in Pawnee, and the Dick Tracy exhibit will be personal for me. Also, I’m looking forward to seeing the exhibit on Clarence Nash, who grew up on a farm near Watonga. Nash learned on the farm how to mimic animal sounds and went to Hollywood and became the voice of Donald Duck.
Musically speaking, I’m most looking forward to the exhibit featuring Leon Russell. Russell hit it big when I was 19 or 20. I remember first hearing him sing at the end of the movie Mad Dogs & Englishmen. I also have this memory of driving through Yosemite National Park and listening to one of his tapes. There have been lots of moments in my life that have involved Leon Russell.
Jeff Moore: I am most looking forward to bringing the Bob Wills collection back to Tulsa. There’s an added line in his song “Take Me Back to Tulsa” where he sings “Let me off at Archer, and I’ll walk down to Greenwood.” The museum will be on Archer, which I think is a little serendipitous.
Overall, I’m excited for Oklahomans to come to the museum and walk away with some state pride and some swagger. It will help to show the impact Oklahomans have had on the world.
MM: What are your next steps?
JM: We will now start a four-year fundraising campaign to gain funding for future collections and programs, all the while looking to maintain sustainability in all of our decisions, in order to keep this project viable.