Widely recognized as one of the largest and most extensive tribal cultural centers in the United States, the Chickasaw Cultural Center celebrates the vision, resilience, and spirit of the Chickasaw Nation and serves as a model for tribal centers around the world.
More than an exploration into First American history, the Center is rather an immersion into a formative and ongoing culture, rich in traditions that are to be preserved and protected. In capturing the essence of the Chickasaw culture, the center allows visitors to walk through unforgettable experiences of individuals and families, their struggles and journeys, as this great nation fought to not only survive, but thrive. We witness first hand the past and current contributions of the Chickasaw people to agriculture, art and society.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center
: Hilferty and Andrew Merriell
The Chickasaw Nation
5,300 square feet (497 m²) of exhibit space
Scope of Work:
ThemeWorks recreated a thatch and timber council house which serves as an orientation theater at the beginning of the museum experience. At the conclusion of a short introductory film, the projection screen rises up revealing a hidden exit from the theater through a limestone cave. Visitors emerge from the cave into an ethereal forest representing the spiritual origins and homelands of the Chickasaw people. Along the pathway that winds through towering trees and crosses a bubbling stream, visitors discover ancient tribal symbols, hear legends of the Chickasaw people, and maybe catch a glimpse of some of the Spirit Forest’s mystical inhabitants.
ThemeWorks was responsible for the creating the immersive cave and Spirit Forest environment including the production of artificial rocks, terrain, plants, and trees, as well as sculptures, water features, and wall murals. ThemeWorks worked with the AV team to incorporate special effects, A/V equipment, and theatrical lights into the physical environment.
Following the Spirit Forest, visitors pass through a series of galleries where they learn more about the traditional life of the Chickasaw people and the history of the Chickasaw Nation from ancient through modern times.
One particularly poignant gallery addresses the removal of the Chickasaw people from their traditional homelands by the United States government and their relocation to the Oklahoma Territory. For this gallery, ThemeWorks was tasked with creating sculptures, silhouette panels, and wall murals capturing some of the hardships and emotions that the Chickasaw people faced during this difficult time.