Oklahoma Historical Society Director steps down after 41 years of studying our past

Great State

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Comparing history to a long highway, Bob Blackburn and his replacement as Executive Director at the Oklahoma Historical Society walked a little of the Route 66 Museum in Clinton Thursday morning.

Bob and Trait Thompson spent the past month touring museums and properties the agency administers.

Thompson projects, “Hopefully I’ll have a role in propelling it into the future, and I’m excited about that.”

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Dr. Bob Blackburn

Walking down memory lane or two-lane highway history, it doesn’t matter.

Blackburn posits, “I will never quit asking questions and exploring.”

“I’m a storyteller.”

That’s what historians do, collecting artifacts as they go and sharing them with people who want to remember too.

Blackburn can vividly recall walking into the old History Center to do research for his PHD or searching records to write one of his 26 books.

“Each time I would write a book, I would deep dive into that subject,” he explains.

He took over as editor of the Oklahoma Chronicles magazine in 1989, then became Deputy Director in 1990, and Executive Director in 1999.

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Route 66 Museum

Blackburn credits his strong sense of salesmanship to his mother, longtime local TV host Ida B.

“It’s the story of free enterprise,” he shows us, “adding value to something.”

Blackburn says he learned a lot from his crack staff, most of whom he hired.

“People here have a passion for what they’re doing,” he states.

As we walk through pieces of Oklahoma’s past, Bob talks about connecting the dots, of people, big events and commerce.

He calls it, “This creative spirit you get in Oklahoma.”

This building, completed in 2005, allowed his agency to expand collections.

The museum’s collection of photographs, he says, “went from 40,000 images to more than 12 million images.”

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Dr. Blackburn walks the museum.

A couple of hundred projects later and Dr. Bob’s passion for history is still intact.

He might retire from the job, but for someone who truly loves what they do, stepping away from one thing just means stepping to something else.

“I’m going to miss the people,” he says. “But I just love this building.”

For more information on the Oklahoma Historical Society and their many activities and exhibits, go to www.okhistory.org/historycenter/.

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