Tahlequah Daily Press

Letters to editor

March 7, 2014

Consolidation not the answer

TAHLEQUAH — Editor, Daily Press:

The Friends of the Murrell Home would like to inform our area citizens about the potential elimination of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The Murrell Home, Fort Gibson Military Site, Sequoyah’s Cabin, Honey Springs and Cabin Creek Battlefields are among 28 museums and historic sites owned and operated by this agency.

Last week, the Oklahoma House of Representatives introduced a bill (HB 3028) to consolidate the OHS and the Oklahoma Arts Council into a new department, formerly the Department of Tourism and Recreation (T&R), to become the Department of Tourism, History and Cultural Affairs. Their belief is that this new department will be more efficient in state operations. The Friends of the Murrell Home and the Board of the OHS all strongly disagree.

The OHS was formed in 1893 and has since then collected, preserved and educated the public about the history of Oklahoma. It has a membership of about 10,000 people who vote for the majority of their board members and who, in turn, make decisions on the agency’s operations. This board and the members will be eliminated and replaced by a director and board appointed by the governor with no legislative oversight. It is hard to imagine a much more massive bureaucracy will be more efficient.

Equally disturbing is the distribution of the $4.5 million in assets of this organization, which includes a number of endowments that generate interest toward the upkeep the agency’s museums and historic sites. Who will be the beneficiary of these funds? T&R? The Oklahoma Legislature? The Murrell Home has a $60,000 bequest in an OHS endowment and the Friends have raised an additional $34,000 in a separate endowment.

Most distressing is trying to figure out what will happen to the various museums and sites across the state. In 1991, the Oklahoma Legislature transferred at least 10 museums and sites from T&R to the OHS because of the deterioration of these sites. Since the economy’s downturn, T&R has closed a number of state parks, and their lodges have also deteriorated. With this new legislation, the budget of the what was the OHS will be slashed another 15 percent, on top of the 28 percent lost during the past few years.

In essence, an independent OHS, with its own governing body and membership and unified mission, is more effective in preserving Oklahoma’s history than it would be as a division of an agency that is dedicated to image-making and economic development.

To prevent the elimination of the OHS and its affiliates, please call (much more effective than writing) your local House of Representative legislator and urge him/her to vote against HB 3028. For additional information, email harlene.wills@gmail.com or shirleyp76@att.net.

Friends of the Murrell Home

Tahlequah

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