Updates from Oklahoma’s Cultural Institutions with the Recent Tornadoes

45th_Infantry_Division_MuseumBy Karen Whitecotton

As you are probably aware, there have been several catastrophic tornadoes in Oklahoma over the past few days. Of course, the loss of life and recovery of victims are the TOP priorities in this tragedy. Many museums have employees that have been personally affected from wind damage to even the loss of their homes and relatives homes (and unfortunately probably have friends and relatives who have lost their lives). With the lack of details and official information being released, the inaccessibility of the area, and the downed communication, it is difficult to discern the full impact.

In the midst of the tragedy, I wanted to update our museum colleagues around the world with a little positive news regarding Oklahoma’s cultural institutions in the wake of these disasters (we can use all the good news we can get!).

OMA-Logo-Medium_TransparentCurrently, the Oklahoma Museums Association Disaster Response Team (DRT) does not have ANY reports of damage from any cultural institutions. Many museums in the central part of the state from Norman, to south Oklahoma City (OKC), to Shawnee were all in close proximity of multiple tornadoes, so it’s a relief there has not been any damage. My own museum (the Oklahoma History Center) closed Tuesday due to lack of water pressure from damage to a pumping station that has left thousands of people without water (we are now open – we are lucky to even have water when so many people still don’t).

Local museums are stepping up and helping out. Both the Oklahoma Territorial Museum (Guthrie) and the Science Museum Oklahoma (OKC) are donation collection points for disaster relief. The Science Museum Oklahoma and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (OU/Norman) are also offering free admission for families affected. The Sam Noble Museum is updating their Facebook page with information on how to help. The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum (OKC) is offering resources in dealing with the trauma from the disaster, especially the children. The University of Oklahoma (Norman; which has two museums associated with it) has offered major aid to families, has opened their dorms, and is feeding first responders. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is offering a free reception for the graduating students of the three Moore high schools. The Oklahoma Arts Council spent a day cleaning up a Moore cemetery. Our museum collected boxes to take to an employee that had his house ripped in half and other employees helped salvage what they could. The Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum in Tuscaloosa is planning to donate all proceeds from an upcoming lunch and learn event to the disaster relief efforts. The Oklahoma Museums Association (OMA) has been contacted by Amigos Disaster Response Helpline, CERF + Craft Emergency Relief Fund + Artists’ Emergency Resources, Society of American Archivist’s National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives, American Association for State and Local History, and the Texas Association of Museums. Many other museums are also helping out in some way and I apologize if I left anyone off this brief list – it was mostly generated from my emails and social media. All of the above museums can be found on Facebook. Please “like” the pages to keep updated.

For more information about what is going on, here are some helpful links. It is in no way completely comprehensive:

For Oklahoma museums:

For Disaster Recovery (non museum related):

If you know any people in central Oklahoma and want to check their status (since communication is spotty at best), check with the Red Cross site at www.safeandwell.org

There are LOTS of Facebook pages set up to identify animals, documents/photos, and personal items from the tornadoes and reunite these items with their owners. TONS of local businesses, churches, etc. are serving as collection points and staging grounds. Lots of local business are donating food and proceeds from sales.

Probably more than you wanted to know – but it’s what we’re dealing with right now.

Prayers and positive thoughts are truly appreciated here in Oklahoma!

Karen Whitecotton is the Curator of Collections/Art at the Oklahoma History Center. She is also a Board Member of  the Oklahoma  Museums Association and a member of the Association’s Disaster Response Team.

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