Story and Photos provided by Roger Moore, Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History Director
Since 1974 the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History has served Stillwater and the surrounding communities in a variety of ways. From thousands of unique and fascinating buttons, to fashion from the 1920s, to a military uniform from one of Stillwater’s founding fathers, the museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and presenting this community’s unique history and diverse cultures. While producing interesting exhibits downstairs, the classic upstairs auditorium provides space for music and dance recitals, concerts, organizational meetings, and, from time-to-time, a traditional wedding.
As a non-profit, the Sheerar Museum relies on donations from Associates, contributors, sponsors, and volunteers to remain open free to the public. Annual donations given by Museum Associates, grants, and fundraisers are responsible for much of the Sheerar Museum’s operating budget. Donated funds invested by Associates and contributors pay for the Sheerar Museum and Cultural Center’s utilities, phone service, office supplies, building maintenance, and staff salaries in addition to the costs to maintain and care for the collection. Contributions also pay for new exhibits and educational programming throughout the year.
Like the 42 previous years, 2016 was busy at 702 S. Duncan. Among the highlights were a collaboration with the Stillwater Public Library for “Two Books, One Community,” a community-wide series discussing the books, The Great Gatsby and Fire in Beulah. The museum hosted two of the many city-wide book discussions as well as two of the educational programs and produced a 1920s-themed exhibit, curated by Oklahoma State University history students, focusing on Stillwater during the period.
The award-winning education program, “How Oklahoma Began!”, had another successful run, bringing over 500 area third graders to the museum for an Oklahoma history lesson. Working with the Oklahoma WONDERtorium, the program focuses on the founding of Oklahoma and gives young students a hands-on 19th-century experience and countdown to the historic Land Run of 1889. Elementary school teachers have already started booking dates for 2017.
Back for a 10th season, the Cool Classic Summer Concert Series in July brought professional musicians from Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Norman to the auditorium. Receptions following each Friday night concert gave four local organizations ― Payne County Historical Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, League of Women Voters, and OLLI ― a chance to interact with locals.
The museum gallery’s permanent exhibit continues to tell the story of Stillwater and during 2016 the inner gallery transitioned from “Stories Unfolding: A 30th Anniversary Celebration,” an exhibit documenting the relationship between Stillwater and sister-city Kameoka, Kyoto, Japan, to an exhibit documenting 100 years of Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Oklahoma State University, “1916-2016: A Century of Cowboy Cadets.”
Programming, exhibits, and hosting events are just a few of the things the museum and its staff provide. Weekly, patron requests are researched. From locating photos of old Jefferson School on Main Street, to researching street names, to identifying buildings, people, and events that have taken place in the community, the staff continues to provide research assistance, and some answers to many questions.
The core of the museum’s mission is to collect, preserve, and interpret Stillwater’s history. Without the many artifacts and archives given during the last 40-plus years, the Sheerar Museum would not be able to fulfill its purpose and offer the community educational programming and exhibits as well as the preservation and interpretation of its history.
With 2017 approaching, the staff and the Stillwater Museum Association Board of Trustees wish to thank its many supporters, including volunteers, donors, and anyone who has taken the time to stop by the museum or attend an event in the auditorium. We wish to thank the individuals and families who have given their heirlooms and collections to the Sheerar Museum; we thank the Associates and Corporate Sponsors as well as the City of Stillwater who support the museum through monetary donations, memorials, contributions, and grants on an annual basis. Your generosity continues to help the museum preserve our history for the enrichment of its future.
During this holiday season, remember, as you sit down for dinner with family and friends, that what the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History does is keep those family memories and stories alive. Without your support, places to house those memories fade away. Museums help keep those memories alive in perpetuity.
To learn more about how you can support the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History, please visit the Museum at 702 S. Duncan or call the office at 405-377-0359. The museum is free to the public, Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 p.m. The Sheerar Museum is administered by the Stillwater Museum Association, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.