The Oklahoma Heritage Museum preserves the pioneer spirit of Oklahomans past and present

Mixing modern technology with yesterday's charm, the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum, 1400 Classen Drive, celebrates Oklahoma through the men and women who molded a young state and those guiding its future.

Telling the history of Oklahoma through the stories of 30 accomplished Okies, the Oklahoma Through Its People Gallery is the museum's focal point. Highlighting characteristics abundant in the people who call this state home, six of its famous sons and daughters were chosen to exemplify the traits of generosity, perseverance, individualism, optimism and pioneer spirit. Cleverly constructed, the exhibits evidence a progressive people with an eye to the future, yet mindful of the lessons of the past.

The museum also houses the Oklahoma Heritage Association's Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Using interactive, touchscreen technology, visitors can access the biographies of the more than 600 Oklahomans honored as inductees. Portraits of the members adorn the site walls throughout.

Creating an ever-growing archive of Oklahoma history and heritage, the museum's "Tell Your Story" exhibit collects visitors' personal experiences and memories. Other exhibits along the self-guided tour include the Centennial Time Capsule, a trivia-inspired bust garden and the short film "Spirit of Oklahoma."

The Tulsa World Gallery hosts changing exhibits and is currently displaying a retrospective from the collection of Oklahoma photographer Yousef Khanfar. A special exhibit introduces visitors to the museum's namesakes, T. Boone Pickens and Edward L. Gaylord, and offers an opportunity to learn about their lives and state pride.

Opened as the headquarters of the Mid-Continent Life Insurance Company in 1927, the old building itself is worth a visit. The neoclassical structure was designed by Solomon Layton, architect of the state Capitol building and the Skirvin Hotel. Highlights of its architecture and design include the grand marble staircase and a second-floor mosaic constructed of thousands of tiny tiles. Paneled in dark mahogany, Mid-Continent President R.T. Stuart's office is furnished as it was in 1927, and is noteworthy for the richness of its decoration.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is $7 for adults, and $5 for seniors 62 and older and students 6 to 17. Children 5 and younger are free.

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photo/Charlie Price