Pigeon Perfect: Plan your visit to one of OKC’s most unique, free museums - MetroFamily Magazine
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Pigeon Perfect: Plan your visit to one of OKC’s most unique, free museums

by Erin Page

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

Did you know OKC is home to the The American Pigeon Museum? Now, you might ask what’s so exciting about the pigeon that there’s an entire museum dedicated to this bird? The short answer: plenty!

I have heard about this unique museum for several years, and my crew left our first visit entirely delighted with our new knowledge about this feathered friend and even dreaming of what it might be like to raise and race our own flock. Read on to find out why!

The history

The American Pigeon Museum & Library was originally formed in 1973, and throughout the years, the museum has collected historically significant items from pigeon fanciers and hobbyists. In 2014, the museum opened its current facility to offer more space and security for the exhibits and collections.

What to see

The museum features several permanent exhibits, including a collection of live birds. Visitors can meet, pet and learn about 12 breeds of pigeons. (Don’t miss our favorite: Lady Gaga!) We also enjoyed learning about the differences between homing and fancy pigeons.

Guests can learn about the important role pigeons played in warfare. During the First and Second World Wars, pigeons were used to transport messages, and thirty-two pigeons received the Dickin Medal of Honor, which is the highest award any animal can receive while serving in military conflict. Plus, the museum features an entire room dedicated to the history of pigeon racing.

QR codes are posted throughout the exhibits so visitors can pull up videos to enhance their experience (also a great way to keep techie kids engaged).

What makes this museum so special

I’ve never experienced such a personalized experience at a museum, and that’s what the family who runs it offers each visitor who walks through their doors.

Owner Alberto Gandara grew up racing pigeons, visiting The American Pigeon with his dad and, eventually, doing some volunteer work for the organization. He took a break from racing during his college and young adult years, when he met his wife, Lauren. Alberto was reintroduced to the sport, and the museum, in his early 30s. Lauren was brand new to the world of pigeons, but when the old museum property became vacant, it was a dream realized for the couple to lease and then purchase the space that had been so rooted in Alberto’s childhood.

“It was a dream come true to come back to where he had such great memories as a kid,” said Lauren.

Now the Gandara family, including their 5-year-old son Henry, make their home in the former museum, Lauren opens and runs the museum next door and their family cares for the museum’s pigeons. They also raise their own pigeons, plus Alberto owns a commercial landscaping company and Lauren owns a pigeon auction business. Even Henry helps raise pigeons and belongs to a young race team.

While Lauren never pictured her life revolving around pigeons, the pleasure she takes in her work and the investment in museum guests enjoying a personalized experience is palpable.

“I love seeing the joy when people come to visit,” said Lauren. “People don’t really stumble upon it, so they’re making an effort to come and they’re excited to be there and learn. I enjoy sharing the experience with them.”

Lauren and Henry introduced us to the live birds, pointing out their differences, telling us about their quirks and personalities and explaining their care.

As we wandered from exhibit to exhibit, we sought Lauren out to ask her (approximately one million) questions, especially about how pigeon races are conducted, how fast pigeons can fly and how their times (and winners) are tracked.

“Pigeons are more interesting than people assume they are going to be,” said Lauren. “To get to see all the things pigeons can do is really entertaining, and people often get more out of their experience than they thought they would.”

For me, this museum inspired a childlike wonder — learning about a brand new and unexpected subject (pigeons!) alongside my kids made for an unforgettable experience.

The American Pigeon Museum is open on Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by private appointment. Groups and field trips are welcome. Admission is free; donations are accepted.

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