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.”