By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The world’s first public museum devoted to the 5,000-year history of humans raising pigeons will debutin Oklahoma City on Friday and Saturday, June 13 and 14.
The American Pigeon Museum, located at 2300 N.E. 63, is housed in a new 6,000 square foot building overlooking the Remington Park racetrack.
The inaugural showing will offer special events for all ages from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. both days. Local food trucks will be available providing a variety of refreshments.
The site was acquired for the museum and national headquarters for pigeon organizations in 1993. Existing buildings were converted over time to house artifacts chronicling humans’ longtime relationship with pigeons.
The museum is the result of several North American pigeon groups partnering to create a showcase for the many breeds of pigeons and doves that are raised worldwide.
Museum curator Lorrie Monteiro said, “The array of exhibits will give visitors a clear picture of the breathtaking scope of varieties and uses of pigeons over the centuries.”
Exhibits will show the hundreds of varieties of breeds developed by humans and the many famous people who have kept the birds including Roy Rogers, Walt Disney and Queen Elizabeth.
Artifacts and art include Chinese Pigeon Whistles, complex devices dating back 1,000 years as well as a large collection of pigeon race clocks from 1904 to the 1980’s. There will be numerous photographs including the new collection from George Nunez and Layne Gardner.
The opening will include the showing of several films by international award-winning filmmaker Jim Jenner. Known as “Lord of the Wings,” Jenner is one of the original board members, who selected Oklahoma as the site for the museum,
“It’s heartwarming to see this dream coming true in Oklahoma City,” Jenner said. “It’s a beautiful site and the new museum is a great addition to the many things visitors can enjoy near Remington Park.
“Pigeons are the oldest domesticated bird. They have served humans in many ways. Their most vital role has been as a secret messenger and there is a lot of history on display of the use of pigeons by the US military. There are also exhibits of the hundreds of show varieties of pigeons that exist today.”
Jenner will screen his one hour, acclaimed documentary “The Queen’s Wings” which traces the over 125-year history of England’s Royal Family in the pigeon sport and the special race that honored the Queen’s 60th Jubilee in 2012.
“The Queen’s Wings” will have free screenings on Friday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Following will be the 20-minute film short, “Young Wings.” which traces Jenner’s own involvement with pigeons as a young boy.
The film documents his efforts to show how pigeons can teach children about nature and provide them with calming contact with another species.
Afterwards, Jenner will be on hand to discuss his work with young people who enjoy pigeon keeping.
Monteiro says that a central component of the museum is the intriguing history of the thousands of homing pigeons that served American forces from the First World War through Korea.
“To this day there is still no more secret message system than these silent, undetectable birds carrying information from the battlefield back to headquarters,” said Monteiro.
A presentation of the centennial anniversary of WWI and the vital role pigeons played in wartime communication will include rare 16mm footage from the war. It will screen both days at 1 p.m.
Jenner said, “Oklahoma has a wide variety of pigeon fanciers. Some have racing pigeons, others raise birds for show. Some keep pigeons that roll in the air, like synchronized swimmers, and earn points for their performance. The history of all these varieties are displayed at the museum.
“Any member of the public who visits this new museum will realize that the constant negative press against this family of birds is both unfair and untrue,” Jenner added. “I can promise that they will never look at pigeons quite the same way again.”
For more information, visit theamericanpigeonmuseum.org.