Oklahoma Watches and Warnings

The small stories of Oklahoma History told in the Curator’s Corner

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA -- For every item on display at the Oklahoma History Center there are hundreds more in storage, each a treasure connected to an important person or a big story.

Historians like Jeff Briley and Amy Hildebrand are charged with cataloguing the new arrivals and, in some ways, rediscovering the old.

Hildebrand says, "Sometimes we just have these amazing artifacts come in and we're just like, 'Oh my gosh. They're so beautiful and so interesting'."

Exhibit curators like Jim Meeks put a small fraction of them on public display.

But in a small nook upstairs the museum reserves space for those new arrivals or the old stories that sometimes catch a historian's eye.

"This just allows us to tell some of those interesting stories," says Hildebrand.

Staff at the History Center call it the Curator's Corner.

Within the past few weeks Hildebrand catalogued artifacts from the old Rainy Mountain Trading Post that used to buy up items the Kiowa Indian Tribe brought in to earn money.

Jeff Briley used his spot in the Curator's Corner for the Merci Train, a kind of thank you note to American citizens who donated food and grain to a war-torn France and Italy in 1947.

"The Marshal Plan didn't kick in for another year," he says.

French citizens sent their own train back, one car for every state filled with ordinary items including their own thank you notes, and even pine cones, things they could afford at the time.

"Down to individual objects from individual people," continues Briley.

Some artifacts here mean more than others.

Jim Meeks was always fascinated by his father's 1911 Colt pistol.

"The gun was manufactured in 1944," he says.

Colonel James Meeks died in 2006.

Jim thought its story needed to be told as well.

Meeks adds, "I know that he would be tickled pink to know that it was here."

Simple items, small stories, the quilt of Oklahoma's story has lots of small patches like these.

The blanket wouldn't hold together without them, something they've long known in the Curator's Corner.

For more information on what's new in the Curator's Corner or any of the exhibits on display go to http://www.okhistory.org

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