Museum of the Great Plains set to close for major renovation project

Museum of the Great Plains set to close for major renovation project

LAWTON, Okla._ A multi-million dollar renovation project is about to get underway at the Museum of the Great Plains. The project will force the museum to close down for eight months.

"We want [visitors] to be able to feel that they can come to the Museum of the Great Plains and get as equal quality education and entertainment here in Lawton and not necessarily have to go to the big cities," said John Hernandez, executive director.

Starting in September 2015, visitors will be greeted by dozens of new hands-on exhibits. It's a project two years in the making, and it will take eight months of construction. The museum will close its doors during the process starting Jan. 5.

"It's outdated; we have a lot of exhibits that people have seen since the 60s and 70s," said Hernandez, who hopes to keep their mission the same while getting visitors more involved with interactive exhibits. "We want show how it was it was on the [Great Plains], and the difficulties that they had to encounter."

The new exhibits include an archeological dig site, along with an operational general store, saddle shop and printing press. One of the big attractions will be a tornado theater, where visitors will learn about the 1979 tornado that ripped through Wichita Falls and southwest Lawton. The theater will even simulate what it feel like to be in a tornado's path.

Roughly 30,000 visitors make their way through the museum each year. Hernandez is hoping they will be able to double that number after the remodel.

The project, which is almost entirely privately funded, has a price tag of $4.5 million. Right now, the museum offers free admission on Sundays. The staff has not yet decided if they will continue that program when they re-open in September 2015.