- Associated Press - Monday, July 31, 2017

HOBART, Okla. (AP) - The newest traveling exhibit at the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum chronicles the Native Americans of the Old West through the eyes of newspaper correspondents.

“When the West was opened up and a lot of people were heading out that way, there wasn’t a real way to get information back about all these neat things they were seeing,” said Scott Cumm, museum manager. “So these newspaper men wrote about what they saw and drew pictures as best as they could to send back to be published in the papers.”

“Imprinting the West” features 38 lithographs of the Old West and the Native Americans that were drawn by those correspondents and published in newspapers in the east. The traveling exhibit offered up to 42 images, but Cumm said there just wasn’t enough room to display them all, so he chose the best to display.

“They’re so big and we only have so much wall space, so we wanted to display them in the best way possible,” he said.

The Lawton Constitution (https://bit.ly/2tZHniI ) reports that the paintings are hung on the walls in the traveling exhibit area of the museum. The exhibit also features books and maps that offer more information about the region in the 19th century. Cumm said the museum added a .38-caliber rifle, similar to one that would be used on the frontier in that era. It’s surrounded by little stuffed buffalo toys that could be added to the gift shop at a later date.

“We wanted to do something to spruce it up a little bit and we thought those were really cute,” he said.

Each lithograph is finely detailed and showcases 19th century eastern interpretations of the Western frontier. A video plays on loop in the exhibit, offering more information on the Native Americans and other cultures that were discovered as settlers moved west. It’s an exhibit unlike anything the museum has ever offered.

“We always want to do something different and when I saw this one, I immediately recognized it would be something our visitors would really enjoy,” Cumm said. “You see these images and remember they were printed back East, where people had never seen anything like it before.”

“Imprinting the West” will remain on display through the middle of August, when it will be shipped to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan. Cumm said it will then be replaced by a new exhibit on the Dust Bowl.

“We try to rotate out the exhibits every three months or so to have something new back here,” he said. “We’ll do some in-house exhibits after the Dust Bowl one is taken out.”

Visitors will also notice a new exhibit in the front window of the museum - one dedicated to the military medics and chaplains of World War II. It features uniforms of medics, drawings and cartoons showcasing their work on the field of battle and other informative pieces. Cumm said he was inspired by Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” which chronicled the actions of Pvt. 1st Class Desmond Doss, who received the Medal of Honor for saving 75 men at the Battle of Okinawa.

“I got to thinking that medics and chaplains don’t really get a whole lot of recognition for their work,” Cumm said. “I have a soft spot for chaplains and medics, so I decided to put something together for it.”

The window display will remain up through the end of the year. Cumm said he plans to eventually replace it with a display dedicated to military propaganda.

The General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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Information from: The Lawton Constitution, https://www.swoknews.com

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