Ex­pand­ing hori­zons

Na­tional Cow­boy & Western Her­itage Mu­seum has a new project.

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE -

Leg­endary sharp­shooter An­nie Oak­ley’s se­cret to hit­ting “the bull’seye of suc­cess” was sim­ple but mem­o­rable.

“Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the sec­ond time and maybe not the third. But keep on aim­ing and keep on shoot­ing,” she said.

That’s what the An­nie Oak­ley So­ci­ety of the Na­tional Cow­boy & Western Her­itage Mu­seum has in mind with its am­bi­tious new project: an in­doorout­door mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar ed­u­ca­tional ex­pan­sion de­signed to give chil­dren and fam­i­lies a new in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Li­ichokoshkomo’ is re­ally a spe­cial project for the An­nie Oak­ley So­ci­ety and the mu­seum as a whole,” so­ci­ety Di­rec­tor Di­ana Fields said. “We re­ally look at it as be­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of in­ter­ac­tiv­ity that’s hands-on and minds-on in sup­port of ... the mu­seum’s mis­sion to share the West.”

Li­ichokoshkomo’ (pro­nounced Lee-chokosh-ko-MO’) is named for a the Chick­a­saw phrase for “let’s play.” It will com­bine STEAM (sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, arts and math) and char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment-based learn­ing into a sprawl­ing chil­dren’s area fea­tur­ing an in­ter­tribal Na­tive Amer­i­can vil­lage, a trad­ing post, a bi­son ex­hibit and more.

“The Chick­a­saw Na­tion is a great part­ner of the An­nie Oak­ley So­ci­ety and the mu­seum as a whole.

So, we wanted to honor that part­ner­ship and re­ally wanted to have a name that en­com­passed ... what you feel as you come to the space. So, ‘let’s play,’” Fields said.

“We asked Josh Hin­son at the Chick­a­saw Na­tion in their lan­guage depart­ment if he could trans­late that for us, and he was able to come up with Li­ichokoshkomo’.”

Over the past year and a half, the An­nie Oak­ley So­ci­ety has raised funds for a $15 mil­lion cap­i­tal cam­paign to turn Li­ichokoshkomo’ into a re­al­ity. With more than 93 per­cent of funds raised, the so­ci­ety in Novem­ber hosted a ground­break­ing cer­e­mony.

“It’s so ex­cit­ing that it’s go­ing to ex­pand be­yond the won­der­ful things that are here and add an el­e­ment that has been miss­ing, that kind of in­ter­ac­tiv­ity — be­ing able to be out­side, be­ing able to climb on, get on to, touch things — and it’s the full story (of the West),” said Seth Spill­man, the mu­seum’s chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer.

Needed change

Even with the stuffed moun­tain lion stand­ing guard atop tow­er­ing boul­ders, there’s an air of dis­re­gard in the mu­seum’s Chil­dren’s Cow­boy Cor­ral. Fields said the path to Li­ichokoshkomo’ started in 2010 with plans to ren­o­vate the chil­dren’s an­nex.

“But it has mor­phed into this project ... that re­ally we hope will touch the lives of all chil­dren and fam­i­lies here in Ok­la­homa and who visit the mu­seum,” she said. “It is un­der­uti­lized, and it’s also some­thing that needs to be re­freshed.”

Not only will the Chil­dren’s Cow­boy Cor­ral get an over­haul, but the mu­seum’s Pros­per­ity Junc­tion, a replica Old West cat­tle town, also will be ex­panded.

“We’ll ac­tu­ally start the town on the out­side ... and have a train de­pot here,” Fields said. “Then, we re­ally want to help add some el­e­ments to bring Pros­per­ity Junc­tion more to life. ... We’re re­ally try­ing to make it a more en­gag­ing space.”

The out­door plaza in be­tween the mu­seum wing hous­ing Pros­per­ity Junc­tion and the Chil­dren’s Cow­boy Cor­ral also will boast a replica tent city for rail­way work­ers and a pi­o­neer wagon where young­sters can fig­ure how much to haul out west.

“Chil­dren will have to choose be­tween wants and needs be­cause you’ll see that all your flour for the jour­ney would weigh as much as a pi­ano: Which one would you take? ... We like to call it hands-on, minds-on; we want chil­dren while they’re play­ing to be build­ing those crit­i­cal­think­ing skills,” Fields said.

The grounds be­hind the Chil­dren’s Cow­boy Cor­ral will be trans­formed into an in­ter­tribal Na­tive Amer­i­can vil­lage fea­tur­ing a Pawnee earth lodge, a Kiowa te­pee and a mock-up Mesa Verde with Pue­blo cliff dwellings.

“We’re try­ing to ba­si­cally teach and show the di­ver­sity of Na­tive peo­ples,” Fields said. “We’ll have com­mu­nity in­volve­ment from each Na­tive Amer­i­can tribe that’s rep­re­sented.”

Com­ing soon

Once the nec­es­sary per­mits are in place, Fields said con­struc­tion on Li­ichokoshkomo’ will be­gin early this year, with com­ple­tion planned for spring 2020.

It’s an am­bi­tious goal, but she said the An­nie Oak­ley So­ci­ety takes its cues from its name­sake.

“One of her mot­tos is ‘Aim high and dream big,’ and we re­ally try to do that,” Fields said.

[IM­AGE PRO­VIDED]

Con­struc­tion will be­gin early this year on Li­ichokoshkomo’, a world-class, in­door-out­door, hands-on learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment at the Na­tional Cow­boy & Western Her­itage Mu­seum. Named for the the Chick­a­saw phrase for “let’s play,” it will of­fer fam­i­lies and chil­dren in­ter­ac­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn about a Western her­itage, cul­ture and val­ues.

Brandy McDon­nell bm­c­don­[email protected] ok­la­homan.com

[PHOTO ABOVE BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OK­LA­HOMAN | IM­AGE BELOW PRO­VIDED]

The Chil­dren’s Cow­boy Cor­ral, pic­tured above, at the Na­tional Cow­boy & Western Her­itage Mu­seum will be trans­formed in the cre­ation of Li­ichokoshkmo’, as seen in an il­lus­tra­tion below.

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