The Charismatic Characters of Claremore

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The Claremore Museum of History is currently working on a very exciting project highlighting black leaders and events that helped shape our community. Our Black History Exhibit “Building Heritage, History and Hope” is currently in the design process with plans to unveil June 19th. The exhibit will feature historical photo’s and artifacts that cover Black education in Claremore, from Lincoln School through integration. We have a section on Black military veterans including the first Black cadet, as well as the first Black soldier from Claremore to lose their life in battle. The athletic section covers the Claremore Hall of Fame inductees, the Lincoln Lion state basketball champion team, the semi-pro Claremore Clowns baseball team as well as other noteworthy athletes. The Jones family is highlighted, from W.C. Jones - principal at Lincoln School, his son C.D. Jones - veteran and City of Claremore employee, C.D.’s wife Irene - long time teacher at both Lincoln and Westside Elementary and Rogers County Teacher of the Year, and C Darnell Jones, US Presidential appointed District Judge. We have a section on Religion covering both Mount Zion Baptist Church and Bethel AME church, a section for Claremore’s Black trailblazers including Ronnie Johnson, first OHP Black trooper and a section on Historic Black businesses. In conjunction with the exhibit, we’ve also developed a video montage that is available for viewing and have educational programming in progress so that the MoH can take Claremore’s Black history into our public school system.

By, Macy Goodnight; June, 2021: There is no denying that the beautiful city of Claremore has a rich and vibrant history, with some notable figures garnering fantastic accomplishments. Some of their citizens have made impacts that have been felt around the world. It might have one asking, “Is there something in the water?”

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Tanya Andrews, Director of Visit Claremore, and Kelsey Hildebrand, Director of Education and Outreach, standing in front of the mural of Stewart Roosa, Claremore’s own astronaut, who piloted the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.

The Claremore Museum of History, located at 121 N. Weenonah Ave., is filled with information on these intriguing characters, as well as the fascinating facts on the foundation of this city to today. Admission is free, and visitors will find an immersive experience, with stellar storytelling and vivid imagery. The mission of the museum “is to create engaging experiences that celebrate history, connect community and inspire creativity.” Mission accomplished. Many visitors are surprised to learn that Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! was adapted from a play written by author, poet and playwright, Lynn Riggs (1899-1954), who was born and raised in Claremore, and details from his life and work can be discovered here. Amazingly, the “Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” from the 1955 film, starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones can also be found with this collection. In honor of another Claremore citizen, this year, celebrations are in order for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 14 mission in 1971, which was piloted by Stewart Roosa (1933-1994). An exhibit is currently on display to honor his accomplishments, with additions to come. Exhibits on Will Rogers, Patti Page, and more are also housed at this magnificent museum.

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Author, Poet and Playwright, Rollie Lynn Riggs, wrote Green Grow the Lilacs in 1931, which was adapted into the landmark musical Oklahoma! in 1943.

On June 19, Claremore MOH will open their much-anticipated Black History exhibit, “Building Heritage, History and Hope.” Features will include citizen highlights, Black-owned businesses with mapping, and details on the Lincoln school that opened in 1899, before statehood. “A big part of this project has been the community coming together with memories of the Black community, and this really cool celebration of the individuals that came out of Claremore,” said Kelsey Hildebrand, Director of Education and Outreach. “The graduates of the school did some really amazing things.”

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The Claremore Museum of History.

Kelsey began her new position as Director of Education and Outreach at the Claremore Museum of History on March 4 of this year. A 2016 graduate of Oklahoma State University, she earned her Bachelor’s in Natural Resources and Wildlife Biology, and in 2021 earned her Master’s Degree from the University of Tulsa in Museum Science and Management. After OSU, she worked as a Wildlife Biologist for the National Ecological Observatory Network for three years but returned home to be close to her family, and to make a career in outreach and programming. “I am extremely passionate about informal education and outreach, and creating opportunities for anybody to learn something new about the world around them,” said Kelsey. “For a child to walk into a museum and see that an astronaut went to their own school can really show them that are no limits.”

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Col. Stewart Allen Roosa, USAF, was the Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.

Kelsey is finding inspiration in the history and people of Claremore, and bringing some of her own innovation and vision to the future of the museum. “I’m really excited to get to work with these people that have a lot of really big ideas,” said Kelsey.

For more information and to make plans to visit the museum, check out their website at www.claremoremoh.org.

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