Robert Roberson

Robert Roberson stands by the appreciation yard sign at the Plains Indians and Museum as he prepares to retire as the museum’s director in March. (Photo provided)

Robert Roberson moved to Woodward from Chicago in 1997. Since then, he has dedicated his time and talents to the Woodward community and this month he is retiring after 23 years at the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum.

After settling in Woodward, Roberson became friends with the director of Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum. “Louise James needed an assistant at the museum,” said Roberson. “After I visited with Louise about it, she hired me as her assistant director in 1998.”

Roberson became the museum’s director when James retired. “I really like this job, and all the people, the artifacts, and setting up the exhibits,” he said.

“The Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum is the designated tourism information center for Woodward. Our mission is to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of Northwest Oklahoma,” states the museum web site. “The museum serves as a permanent repository for such artifacts, written and oral records, photographs, and historical items, which interpret and depict Northwest Oklahoma.” (www.nwok-pipm.org)

The museum first opened on September 25, 1966 with monthly art exhibits. Its building was a gift from Dr. C. E. Williams and his wife, located on property owned by the City of Woodward. There have been expansions and additional buildings added to the facilities over the years via donations, fundraisers, and grant-writing.

“The most challenging part of the job is raising the money for the museum,” Roberson said. “This community has always come through generously, every time we ask.”

Operating expenses for Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum come from multiple sources including the City of Woodward, membership fees, gift shop sales, grants, fundraisers, donations, and estates.

“The community does a lot for us,” Roberson said. “Local businesses and organizations are great donors whenever we have a need."

The museum has gone through a variety of upgrades and repairs under Roberson’s leadership. These include a new roof, restored murals inside the museum, a mural painted on the exterior of the museum, the Temple Houston statue in front of the museum and the metal bison display at the entrance of the museum parking lot. Donations helped finance the additions to the museum.

A new storage room at the museum contains the Francis and Della Buttel Heritage Vault. This was paid for using a portion of the estate gifted to the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum in 2012. It stores museum archives that are all photographed, catalogued, and stored in a climate-controlled room.

The museum also has a series of security cameras throughout the main building and the outside grounds. The security cameras can help museum staff monitor the facilities for problems that can develop.

In reflecting on the funniest thing that happened during his years at the museum, Roberson said, “One day a museum guest came to see me and asked if I’d noticed the misspelled word on the Temple Houston statue outside. When I went to see it, I discovered one engraved metal plate had spelled Temple’s last name Houstin instead of Houston. The installer was contacted and had it fixed in no time.”

The museum puts on a number of events each year.

“My favorite events at the museum are the annual Paul Laune Memorial Art Competition for area high school students, the annual photography contest, Ask the Archaeologist, and the Cowboy Christmas for area students,” Roberson said.

Roberson will miss overseeing the completion of the Temple Houston statue and the new mural that will be painted on the exterior of the museum. He will be able to see both as he drives by or visits the museum.

As a retiree, Roberson looks forward to just taking it easy at home. He will enjoy relaxing with a good book to read and continuing his gardening of flowers and vegetables in his yard.

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