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Virtual reality Dust Bowl experience coming to Woody Guthrie Center in April
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Virtual reality Dust Bowl experience coming to Woody Guthrie Center in April

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The Woody Guthrie Center will soon be transporting visitors decades into Oklahoma’s past.

In April, the Woody Guthrie Center, 102 E. M.B. Brady St., will introduce a new virtual reality experience that will take guests into the heart of the Dust Bowl.

The multisensory experience will mimic an approaching dust storm.

While wearing a virtual-reality headset, users will be seated on a replica of a front porch (constructed with material from Dust Bowl-era houses in the Oklahoma Panhandle) to experience the approaching storm through that perspective.

“Rather than viewing the events on a flat video screen, we want for the user to feel as if he or she is actually part of the scene and fully experience the impact of this man-made ecological disaster,” said Deana McCloud, executive director of the Woody Guthrie Center.

Visitors can relive the April 14, 1935, dust storm that came to be known as Black Sunday, one of the worst dust storms in U.S. history. Virtual reality will allow users to sample the sights and sounds of the western Oklahoma prairie before the horizon begins to darken and grow, and then the massive storm approaches until the porch, house and user are swallowed by the wind and whirling dirt.

The Black Sunday dust storm was the subject of several of Guthrie’s songs, including “So Long It’s Been Good to Know Yuh.” In addition to the devastation created by the storms, the experience of seeing the migrant workers and their plight encouraged Guthrie to become a spokesperson for the disenfranchised.

The Woody Guthrie Center has one of the only permanent Dust Bowl exhibits in Oklahoma. The new virtual reality experience will allow an expansion of the exhibit to include more STEM-related curriculum for the more than 2,000 students who tour the center each year at no cost. Students and visitors will see the effects of drought on a land that was over-farmed and poorly managed, leading to millions of tons of topsoil displaced just by the Black Sunday storm.

The Dust Bowl Experience is partially funded by grants from the Oklahoma Humanities Council, the George Kaiser Family Foundation and Williams, with design work provided by Steelehouse Productions.

The new feature is expected to be open during the Woody Guthrie Center’s fifth anniversary celebration, with a Woody Guthrie Center members opening event April 23 and a public opening April 24.

Said McCloud: “As we celebrate the fifth anniversary of Woody’s work returning to his home state, we are proud to focus on the theme ‘This Land is Your Land’ as we promote Woody’s message of diversity, equality and social justice.”

For more information about the exhibit or the campaign, contact McCloud at 918-574-2710 or at deana@woodyguthriecenter.org.

Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389

jimmie.tramel@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @JimmieTramel

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Scene Writer

I cover pop culture and work as a feature writer at the Tulsa World. A former Oklahoma sports writer of the year, I have written books about former OU coach Barry Switzer and former OSU coach Pat Jones. Phone: 918-581-8389

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