Fort Sill to display artifacts in June museum opening

Fort Sill_Fort Sill is a few months away from opening a second museum dedicated to the Army's Field Artillery.  The 38,000 square-foot facility will open in June as part of the annual FIRES Seminar.  For years, historic artifacts have been relegated to storage since there was no room to display them.  Finally, though, the artifacts will have a home - but, that's not all.  A third museum facility - dedicated to the Air Defense Artillery - will replace a parking lot in 2011.

7News got a tour of a soon-to-debut exhibit that was four years in the making.  The exhibit is one of several displays honoring the history of Native Americans in the Lawton-Fort Sill area.  "You're communicating to the public a story...a message that they might not have been aware of beforehand," said Fort Sill Historian Towana Spivey.  "That's what it's all about:  education, informing, and training."

One-of-a-kind items such as Quanah Parker's pistol, a meteorite seen during a meteor shower recorded by Kiowas in 1833, and an Indian scout coat - the only one remaining in the world - also are on display.  "It's history they didn't know about," said Spivey.  "It's history that's not dealt with elsewhere.  In some instances it's history that's unique to Fort Sill, and it's history that's not found elsewhere."

Unique items on display aren't limited to Native American artifacts.  The first computer ever - ENIAC - will take up residence in the Field Artillery Museum, its rightful home since it was designed to calculate artillery firing tables.  The computer is expected to be a big draw for the museum.  "The main purpose is obviously to talk about artillery through the ages - through American history - starting with the American Revolution up through the modern day," said Director of Museums Colonel Frank Siltman.

Weaponry in the Cannon Walk will be restored, and the museum plans to showcase the displays in their natural settings to show how they were used - to put them in context.  "We'll show a gun being crewed by soldiers, and we'll have some interactive opportunities: computers, videos, to tell the story of the Field Artillery, and when the Air Defense gets here - to tell the story of the Air Defense," said Siltman.

The Air Defense Artillery Museum currently is located at Fort Bliss in El Paso, and will move to Fort Sill as part of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).  It will join with the Fort Sill Historic Site Museum to create a campus of history by 2011.  Post officials are arranging for 7News to take an early tour inside the Field Artillery Museum next week.  Be sure to tune in then for a sneak peek.