By Chesley Oxendine
One can’t change history, but they can change a historic exhibit, and according to recently appointed Site Director David Fowler, Fort Gibson Historic Site will soon see some refinements to both its fort and its programs.
These renovations come on the heels of Fowler’s hire in late September, replacing retiring director Chris Morgan. The new manager said the improvements mainly aim to keep the log cabin safe from heavy rains.
“This is, of course, assuming we ever see rain in Oklahoma again,” he said. “When we do, the water can sit by the buildings and up soaking into the ground, so we’re going to do some drainage work.”
Fowler also outlined plans for a new restroom facility and repairing or replacing exhibit cases and panels.
“It’s been about 10 years since we’ve done anything to the exhibits,” he said. “We’re going to do some work on them and bring those up to date so we can better tell the story of the fort.”
The renovations, currently in the bidding stage, will begin in early 2013, Fowler said.
During the year-long remodeling, some parts of the fort won’t be accessible to the public — but the end result will be worth the wait, he said.
“We don’t like to have portions of the fort people can’t tour, but we have to crack this egg so we can make this omelette,” Fowler said. “There may be some events we can’t do that we’ve done in the past, but when we’re done we’re going to hit the ground running, and have new activities and improvements to bring people to the site.”
He stressed the Historic Site would remain open throughout the process, and that people could keep track of available attractions on their Facebook page.
In addition to keeping an eye on the remodeling at Fort Gibson’s site, Fowler also serves as site director for both the Murrell Home and Cabin Creek exhibits in Park Hill and Big Cabin, respectively.
He said the “challenge” of running three separate facilities remains mitigated by the dedicated staff at Murrell and Fort Gibson, while Cabin Creek is largely unmanned.
“I’m pretty comfortable with my job, because I’ve got great people above me and great people at the sites I work with,” Fowler said. “A lot of people have asked how I can be at three places at once, and I say it’s the people that work for me.”
The director said his passion for the past also fuels his love for the job. After graduating with a degree in history from Northeastern State University, Fowler worked for the Fort Gibson Historic Site for 8 1/2 years before he transferred to directing the Murrell Home.
“I love the personal side of history,” he said. “Like, it’s really neat that the Murrell Home is the only surviving antebellum mansion in Oklahoma, but it’s the family that makes it interesting. Likewise, at the fort, you start studying about the people who came there, where they were from, how they lived. That’s my favorite part of the job.”
That job Keeping important because “the Fort is one of the best historical education tools we’ve got,” Fowler said.
“Living history is one of the greatest teaching methods available to us,” he said. “It’s like we’ve got the greatest classroom in the world.”
For more information on closed exhibits, guests are encouraged to call (918) 478-4088 or visit the Site’s Facebook page for up-to-date news on what’s open and what’s not.