The Group Travel Leader

MAY 2017

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GROUP TRAVEL LE ADER T H E B Y B R I A N J E W E L L FACING WEST T H E S E M U S E U M S D E P I C T T H E F R E E D O M O F T H E F R O N T I E R — W I L L R O G E R S M E M O R I A L M U S E U M — C L A R E M O R E , O K L A H O M A Perhaps no other man stands as tall in the American West as Will Rogers, the actor, columnist and radio personality who soared in popularity in the early 20th century. "At his time, he was the biggest star in the world," said Tad Jones, executive director of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Rogers' hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma. "Our museum talks about his life and how he touched people all over the world." The museum features 12 galleries that tell Rogers' story, from his birth in nearby Oologah to his Cherokee heritage and his career in newspaper, radio and movies. Visitors can see galleries of portraits made by professional artists and dedicated fans, and a theater plays a documentary on Rogers' life and clips from films in which he appeared. "We have some movies that you can't see anywhere on TV," Jones said. "We're the only place in the country where you can see these movies that were done in the '20s and '30s." The newest exhibit at the museum covers the last few days of Rogers' life, before he died tragically in a plane crash while traveling in Alaska. Artifacts include the typewriter he used to write his newspaper columns as well as numerous other items from the plane's wreckage. Rogers and his family are buried in a sunken garden at the museum site. Groups can also visit the ranch where Rogers was born, which is also part of the museum and about 12 miles from the main campus. The ranch com- prises some 400 acres and features Rogers' birthplace home, as well as some longhorn cattle and other ranch animals. W W W.W I L L RO G E R S .C OM C owboys, actors, artists, showmen and rodeo stars all played a role in making the cultural story of the American West. Throughout the 19th century, hundreds of thousands of travelers, settlers, ranch hands and lawmen helped open the West and make it part of America. But a lot of our knowledge of that place and time comes from the larger-than-life personalities who brought the West to popular art and culture. Some of the country's most fascinating Western characters are hon- ored today with museums that tell their stories and, along with them, the stories of the West and America itself. Here's a look at some of the great museums around the country that are based on famous figures. 1 1 Photos courtesy Will Rogers Memorial Museum WILL ROGERS DEMONSTRATES A LASSO MANEUVER. A LIFE-SIZE BRONZE STATUE SITS AT THE ENTRANCE OF THE WILL ROGERS MEMO- RIAL MUSEUM IN OKLAHOMA.

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