HOBART – As the holiday season approaches, it’s good to know there are options around western and southwestern Oklahoma for individuals and families to get out of the house and learn more about this great state as it celebrates its 113th birthday as the 46th state in the Union.
Here in Hobart, at the Gen. Tommy Franks Leadership Institute & Museum, Executive Director D’Lese Travis said that while the Harmon County-based museum was closed for a number of weeks in the spring, it reopened on June 1 with an emphasis on a new “safety strategy” to keep staff and visitors safe.
“We have hand sanitizer and masks available. And while we don’t require people to wear masks, it is encouraged,” Travis told Southwest Ledger.
Individual and group tours still take place, but they are not currently led by a tour guide, she said, noting that when visitors enter, the museum manager is happy to offer information about Gen. Franks and the museum.
In the early 2000s, Gen. Franks, a native of Wynnewood, led American and coalition troops during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.
Travis said Franks usually visits in the spring, and events typically take place in May, during Armed Force Day weekend. Although it did not happen this year due to coronavirus, she said the museum is looking forward to holding it next year.
“Like everybody else, (General) Franks is staying out of the public right now,” Travis said.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Sunday.
For more information, go to tommyfranksmuseum.org.
Meanwhile, over in Altus at the Museum of the Western Prairie, no more than 10 visitors are allowed in the museum at one time. It is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.
This remarkable museum is a gem of southwest Oklahoma, highlighting and chronicling the history of the region, while noting the stories of American Indians, frontier soldiers, cowboys and homesteaders who populated this area.
The museum offers new audio guides for visitors.
For more details, visit okhistory.org/sites/ westernprairie.
At the Comanche National Museum & Cultural Center in Lawton, the hours are normal: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday. The museum is closed on Sunday.
“We’re not limiting how many people can come in the museum,” Candy Taylor, the museum’s executive director, said. “We have a requirement that people submit to a temperature check and also ask people to give us their information for COVID contact tracing.”
Taylor added that the museum gift shop has slightly different hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
For more information, go to comanchemuseum.com.
Nearby, at the Museum of the Great Plains and Cultural Center, in Lawton, visitors are required to wear face masks during their visit.
The museum is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and on Sunday, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Hours are reduced hours on federal holidays, and they will be closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
For more information, visit discovermgp.org.
At the NBC Oklahoma Wigwam Gallery in Altus, curator Matthew Davids said that other than being closed on both Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, they will be open normal hours; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Admission is free.
Visitors should also call ahead to schedule a visit to the gallery, which is next the NBC Bank in downtown Altus at the corner of Commerce and Hudson streets.
Davids said a new exhibit of quilts will be set up this week, created by Altus quilter Jeanette Glasgow.
He also said if folks are not able to make it to the gallery, people are able to take a virtual tour on their website: nbcwigwam.art.
At the Old Greer County Museum in Mangum, director Stephen Dock said that they went from 2,000 visitors a year down to only 40 since COVID-19 started.
The museum tells the history of what once included present-day Jackson, Greer, Harmon and part of Beckham counties prior to statehood.
Dock said the museum has cut back its hours to only Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and they will be closed the week of Thanksgiving. He was excited to note that the museum was featured on the travel show Discover Oklahoma on Halloween.
For more, go to oldgreercountymuseum.com.
At the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, the museum celebrating the “Mother Road” will be closed Thanksgiving Day and remain closed until Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Safety precautions are required to be observed, including the wearing of masks and social distancing. Walkins are welcome.
For more information, go to okhistory.org/sites/ route66.php.
Up in Woodward, at the Plains Indians & Pioneer Museum, curator Tammy Hawbaker said the hours and days open (Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) have not changed and when asked if they have seen a decrease in the number of visitors to the museum this year, Hawbaker replied, “I think everyone has.”
For more details, go to nwok-pipm.org/contact-us.
Exciting things are going on at the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, according to director of operations Teresa Schoonmaker. She noted that the museum is open “361 days a year” and for the holidays will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve and Day and New Year’s Day. It is open 9-5 Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Schoonmaker said the museum, celebrating NASA astronaut and Weatherford native Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford who was an astronaut on Gemini 6, Gemini 9, Apollo 10 and Apollo-Soyuz.
“We have a new replica of the lunar module and we moved the Apollo command module. It’s suspended 11 feet in the air,” Schoonmaker said.
And with a more than $5 million expansion underway, the museum will soon have 63,000-square feet of space in coming years, including room for the F-117A Stealth Fighter.
For more details, visit staffordmuseum.org.
At the Temple History Museum in the Cotton County town of Temple, the museum highlights the historic families of Temple and the local school. They are only open on Saturdays from 1:30 to 5 p.m.
For more information, go their Facebook page at Facebook.com/TempleMuseum.
Over in Frederick, at the Tillman County Historical Society & Pioneer Townsite Historical Museum, director Marthea Kuykendall said that during Thanksgiving week they will be open Tuesday and Saturday, but closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The hours are the same, 11:30 to 2:30 p.m.
The museum highlights the history of Tillman County, the city of Frederick and pioneer settlers the Abernathys. They were so well-renowned in that area that President Theodore Roosevelt visited in 1905 to go wolf hunting with Jack Abernathy.
For more information, go to tillmanokhistory.org.
And a few museums in the region are closed, including the Kiowa Tribal Museum in Carnegie and the Military Memorial Museum in Ardmore.
And for more information on the great museums and galleries across southwest Oklahoma – and the entire state – go to okmuseums.org.