Time takes on so many meanings at the Oklahoma History Center.
This includes recognizing where Oklahoma has been and possibly preparing us for where we're headed.
In one exhibit is a clock, circa 1870-1880, that belonged to Dietrich Thiessen and his family, who came to the United States from Odessa, Russia, and eventually established a homestead in the Deep Creek Township of Major County in Oklahoma.
Nearby is an exhibit that includes a pocket watch that belonged to the first Oklahoma territorial governor, George Washington Steele. In the history center's education area is a clock that was installed in Oklahoma City's Central High in November 1931.
Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday as Oklahomans adjust their clocks to 1 a.m.
But time is something Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, studies, preserves and speaks about daily.
“We will go off of daylight saving time, literally resetting our clocks, so then our life is a little different for a few months,” Blackburn said.
“Then we go back onto daylight saving time, and then we adjust again. So we have this semiannual resetting of the clocks.
“A state, community and a family is the same way, and you have layers of timing.”
History is personal, shared
Take, for instance, how Oklahoma celebrates its history of statehood, particularly in 25-year spans.
Other states do this as well, but Blackburn said one difference from many is that because Oklahoma is so young, this history is “so immediate, very personal.”
Blackburn remembers the Semi-Centennial Exposition celebration at the state fairgrounds marking 50 years and the Diamond Jubilee honoring 75 years. Then, just about five years ago, Blackburn, played a key role in the celebration of 100 years of state history.
About 10 a.m. on Nov. 16, 2007, he served as narrator of the Statehood Day inauguration ceremony re-enactment on the steps of the Carnegie Library in Guthrie.
He said then, “They celebrated 100 years ago today, but they were celebrating the beginning of something. Today, I think we're celebrating the fulfillment of that promise.”
Within those layers of state history also are layers of community history or family history, he said.
“To me, 1925 is significant because it's the year my mother's grandparents brought the family to Oklahoma from Arkansas to pick a cotton crop in Grady County,” he said.
“They were starving out as sharecroppers, then they come out here. He eventually gets a job laying pipeline for Oklahoma Natural Gas. So I plug into the Oklahoma story in 1925, even though I wouldn't be born until 1951.”
Going back, moving forward
The History Center features 50 topics and 2,000 artifacts reflecting Oklahoma's past, according to information from the Oklahoma Historical Society.
It also includes five galleries housing more than 200 hands-on audio, video and computer activities.
Outside the museum, the Red River Journey offers visitors a place to take a self-guided walking tour of a replication featuring that area's land forms, vegetation and important historical locations.
The grounds also include an outdoor oil field exhibit with drilling derricks, a portable derrick and machinery associated with Oklahoma oil explorations.
Blackburn believes that to successfully move forward in time, it's important to go back.
Communities often talk about economic development. The 61-year-old historian said if a community is going to develop and be strong, it needs to understand what happened in those early years of the town or city as well as the more recent ones.
“We have to realize that we're standing on the stage of history that has been created by a series of events and decisions and other elements,” he said. “I think we can do a better job of that analysis and decision-making process if we know how we got to that spot in history.”
In trying to analyze where we are right now, we've got to go back to those significant dates, he said.
“The better we know these patterns,” Blackburn said, “the better we understand ourselves and then hopefully can make a better decision of where are we going.”