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Our role in writing history

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Last Saturday, the Noble Summer Research Scholars in Plant Science and the Lloyd Noble Scholars in Agriculture took a trip to Oklahoma City's National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, where we saw glimpses of what early ranching and agriculture looked like in the West. History runs deep in our work atmosphere. During our first week of training, we all watched a video outlining the history of the Noble Research Institute. Concerned about the poor state of Oklahoma's farming land, Lloyd Noble established the Noble Research Institute to educate farmers and ranchers about more sustainable methods and to improve the future of Oklahoma's agriculture. His vision laid the groundwork that makes all of our research and work possible.

During our trip, we saw familiar pieces of artwork hanging in the museum's Sam Noble Special Events Center. These paintings from Wilson Hurley's Windows To The West series were commissioned through funding provided by the Noble Research Institute, and we had seen the (much smaller) drafts of these paintings hanging at the Noble Research Institute in Ardmore. The museum paintings were much larger. Each center painting for the different scenes measured 16 feet by 16 feet!

chuck wagonMy great-great-great-great-great-uncle, Charles Goodnight, was a respected cattle rancher in the Texas Panhandle. This exhibit from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum showcases his most famous invention – the cowboy's chuck wagon.

As we continued our tour, I noticed an exhibit that looked back into my own family history. Among depictions of Western life was an exhibit showcasing the cowboy's chuck wagon. These portable kitchens were invented in 1866 by my great-great-great-great-great-uncle, Charles Goodnight, a respected cattle rancher from Texas. Ranching and farming runs through my family history. My grandparents currently live in Springer, Oklahoma, where an old family farm was in operation long before I was born.

wilson hurley paintingThese 16-foot-tall paintings, displayed in the Sam Noble Special Events Center at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, depict one scene from Wilson Hurley's Windows To The West series.

As our tour approached its end, our museum guide led us to a section on Navajo artwork. On the wall, a Navajo rug depicting the American flag and the Twin Towers hung prominently in a frame. She explained the importance of these weavings in Navajo culture. Then, solemnly, she acknowledged the history behind the subject of the rug. Sadly, some students from previous tour groups at the museum had never learned the historical significance of the Twin Towers. Our museum guide encouraged us, as we continue our careers and build our own families, to remember the importance of sharing history with the next generation. "If the Navajo knew the importance of sharing history with their children, why have we forgotten it now?"

Her statement has been making me think over the past week. Not only has it provoked me to think about my own family history and that of the Noble Research Institute. It has encouraged me to view my work in a context greater than that of an isolated research project. We all play a part in writing history. I am pleased to know that our work at the Noble Research Institute will help build a better future for land stewardship and agriculture in Oklahoma.

navajo rugThis woven Navajo rug was displayed at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Our tour guide explained to us that, sadly, some tour groups of students were unfamiliar with the historical subject of the weaving.

Sarah Oliver is a 2016 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Plant Science from Ardmore, Oklahoma.