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History impacts on Oklahoma climate

Exhibits in Oklahoma Historical Society museums across the state address weather changes throughout Oklahoma’s history.
By Max Nichols, For The Oklahoman Published: June 22, 2014

Climate changes and the environment have caused tremendous impact and constant conversation in today’s world, but these changes have been affecting Oklahomans for thousands of years. Exhibits in Oklahoma Historical Society museums across the state address these changes.

The Red River Journey botanical walk at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City presents a showcase of the varied environment of Oklahoma and how it has affected Oklahomans and state history. In addition, there are other exhibits around the state for visitors to learn how climate changes and the environment have shaped the history of Oklahoma.

“Providing context for the current day conversation about climate change is the impact of the environment on the course of history,” said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. “Especially in a state like Oklahoma, which straddles several ecozones, the environment has posed challenges and opportunities that demand accommodation and adaptation.”

Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center near Spiro presents the history of how people, in most of what is now the United States, experienced environmental changes long before European intrusion. The Sod House Museum north of Cleo Springs displays how Great Plains pioneers built houses with sod on treeless grassland. Ranching on the tallgrass prairie in northeastern Oklahoma for more than 130 years is described at the Fred Drummond Home in Hominy.

In Altus, the Museum of the Western Prairie displays efforts since 1897 to overcome water shortages with irrigation, dams and reservoirs in southwest Oklahoma.

Red River Journey

The Red River Journey was the first exhibit placed at the History Center, said Dan Provo of the Historical Society staff. Part of the original plan was to celebrate and interpret examples of the impact that Oklahoma’s rivers, varied land forms and the rich diversity of plants had on the state’s history.

“Located along the exhibit are more than 50 interpretive markers that outline significant events, people, trails and landforms that played critical roles in shaping Oklahoma history, plus 30 markers that highlight Oklahoma native plants and geological features,” Provo said.

Funded by grants from the Meinders Foundation and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the exhibit has been updated and revised since the History Center’s opening in 2005.

Spiro Mounds

“The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center helps visitors understand how weather changes affect ecosystems,” said Dennis Peterson, center director. “Stable, lush weather patterns can often encourage greater plant and animal development. That allows for surplus in hunted, grown or collected foods, which allows for human growth, which allows for communities to interconnect. Unstable weather patterns can have the opposite effect.”

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