Great State: Old West and Movie West Live Together in History Center Archives

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — In History Center halls every footstep takes researchers like Rachel Mosman and Jeff Briley toward the roots of Oklahoma’s family tree.

Mosman is a photographic archivist.

Of the thousands of old gel prints and glass negatives that line file cabinets and fill paper envelopes, she finds treasures like a family photo of the famous Mulhall family.

Seated on horseback in the early 1900′s we see Mildred, ‘Bossy’, Georgia, Lucille, and Zach.

“You learn a lot by pulling out a collection,” she says.

Another photographic gem includes the gathered cast of characters in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, circa 1902.

From the 1880′s on, people took pictures of ranch life in Oklahoma.

Mosman calls each photo a jumping off point for further study.

She explains, “You pull pictures and you start to learn what questions to ask.”

Throughout the Oklahoma History Center Museum cowboys and their gear take up a big section of display space.

Failed outlaw Al Jennings old boots sit behind one display.

The left boot carries a bullet hole in the heel.

Museum Deputy Director Jeff Briley thinks Jennings would have enjoyed his own exhibit.

Of Jennings, Briley says, “he was also a shameless self-promoter, at the level of Paris Hilton.”

For the hundreds of pictures and artifacts on display to the public, there is much more that waits its turn.

Oklahoma’s history may be short in years compared to other states, but it covers a lot of ground.

Every item has a story, including Ally King’s riding skirt; blood stains, rips and all.

“She was born in 1895 in Indian Territory,” says Briley.

There was a cowboy from Hinton, Oklahoma who went further west to break into the movie business.

Jimmy Wakely was a ‘B’ movie star who’s fancy saddle now sits with regular cowboys’ cracked and worn gear in the museum basement.

Each artifact is a preserved memory, part of a permanent cowboy gathering.

“Livelihood to mythology,” says Briley. “That’s going to cover a huge range.”

The Oklahoma History Center held its 4th annual Cowboy Round-Up on March 22, 2014.

For more information on History Center activities go to www.okhistory.org/historycenter