Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Oklahoma City Treasures

Oklahoma City is going to be the city of museums for me. They have several really interesting museums and the plan is to check them out. I am a little bummed though because one of the museums I want to see is only open Friday and Saturday and I will be gone by then. That museum is the Pigeon Museum. A whole museum devoted to pigeons, I can only imagine.

First venue is the Oklahoma City Bombing National Memorial. I sort of had to force myself to go to this one – it is hard for a sensitive soul such as myself to go to places like this. There is a museum attached to the Memorial but I chose not to go through that one and instead opted for just walking the grounds. I was already choked up before I even got to the site so I knew it would not be pretty to be walking around sniffling. I thought the Memorial itself was very moving. It was very simple – a very shallow reflecting pool with gate structures on each end of the pool, one has the time 9:01 on it and the other has 9:03 on it. From the NPS website:

The 9:01 gate is a symbolic reference to the last minute of innocence for our nation in regards to domestic terrorism. The 9:03 gate is a symbolic reference to the first moment of recovery, the moment when grieving, and healing, began. The time of 9:02 a.m. stretches between the two, presenting a tragically long minute in which citizens were killed, survived and changed forever.

There are chairs arranged on the side of the reflecting pool, one for each victim, small ones for the children that were killed.

The chairs are arranged in nine rows, which represent the nine floors of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.Each chair, representing an individual's life, is placed on the row (or the floor) they would have worked on or were visiting at the time of the bombing. Within the row, chairs are grouped by agency and then in alphabetical order progressing from east to west.

The five chairs located on the western side of the field are positioned in a column. These chairs represent the five people who did not die within the federal building.

The chairs are also arranged to abstractly reflect the outline of the blast cavity of the Murrah Building, with the densest concentration of chairs reflecting the severest damage to the building.

Very somber place except for the middle school field trip participants who, with the exuberance of youth lent an air of renewal.

Onward to the Museum of Osteology – or the Bone Museum. The founder, when he was a small boy, found a coyote skull and this started his fascination with bones and skeletons. He started a business called Skulls Unlimited where he would take bones, clean them and sell them. As his business grew, so did his collection. Zoos started giving him carcasses, he would clean them and then put the skeletons back together and pretty soon he had a great collection and decided to start a museum. This was fascinating – he had a giraffe (same number of neck bones as humans), elephant, whales, rhinos, lots of monkeys and apes, humans, birds, reptiles – just about every type of animal was represented. There were also several videos around that would tell about his bone cleaning business. This videos were actual television shows such as Ripley's Believe It Or Not and The World's Dirtiest Jobs. The whole process can take many months depending on the size of the animal.
First you strip any remaining flesh off of the bones and then you let it dry for a few days. Then you take the bone and put it in his cadaver beetle farm. He has millions of beetles – these guys will strip any remaining soft material off of bones within 48 hours. The bones then get dumped into a vat of hydrogen peroxide which bleaches the bones white. After that comes the laborious job of putting the bones all together in it's proper skeletal form.
I thought this museum would be a little quirky, but it was fascinating looking at the skeletons and thinking about form and function. It was also interesting noticing the similarities in skeletons between all the different species.
A Chihuahua and a Great Dane

Snakes and Dragons

Giraffes, Elephants, Rhinos and Whales - Oh My

Next up is the Museum of Women Pilots. This museum is dedicated to women fliers and all the trials and tribulations they had to go through to get into the air. Everything from what does the well-dressed woman wear in the cockpit to all the sabotage they had to put in from men who felt threatened. Women started flying in the early 1900's. They had a fairly large Amelia Earhart exhibit, since she is probably one of the most famous women aviators in the world. I must admit, though, my favorite of all was a woman named Ruth Elder. In 1929, there was a long distance plane race for women that went from Santa Monica to Cleveland. It lasted nine days and was unofficially called the Powder Puff Derby. On day three, Ruth's map flew out of the cockpit, she got lost and landed in a bull pasture and got directions. On Day six, her map again flew out of the cockpit and she had to stop in a cow pasture and ask directions (these bovines must give good directions). On the last day, she again got lost and while she did finish the race eventually, she was quite late. Later, Ruth Elder went on to become a movie star.
They had a flight simulator that you could play in. Here is a picture of how I did.

Actually, I got sort of bored and decided I would end this simulation in a blaze of glory.

On to the Museum of Art in downtown OKC. The main reason I was going was because they had a Chihuly exhibit. There was some amazing pieces of glass work that I really enjoyed looking at.


Finally, it was time for the Banjo Museum. This was a quiet little museum although once you got inside, two whole floors of banjos. In talking to the admissions person, he said that many of today's current banjo players had been through here – Steve Martin, Dom Flemons, Alison Brown and spent hours. This museum was really well done – starting with early banjo playing in the early 1800s up through the jazz age when everybody played the banjo through the bluegrass era to current day when banjos have started to become popular again in contemporary music. There was only one other person going through the museum with me and he was a collector of Bacon/Day banjos. I hung out with him and it was quite an education as he explained tiny little details that I never would have noticed on my own. Who knew there was such a banjo counterculture. Some of these banjos were works of art.
Giant banjo - taller than me
Pretty Fancy Banjos

Wall to Wall Banjos

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