Sunday October 10, 1999

OKLAHOMA Next April the $39.5 million Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History is scheduled to open, heralded as the finest natural history museum west of the Mississippi River. The 195,000-square-foot structure will house the museum's 6 million artifacts and administrative offices.

NEW MEXICO On the morning of July 4, 1882, a bright, clear day in Albuquerque, crowds flocked to a vacant lot near Gold and Second to witness man's dominion over air - the first manned balloon flight in New Mexico history. The intrepid barkeeper pilot, Van Tassel, later acquired another balloon, crashed into the Pacific Ocean, and was eaten by sharks.

NEVADA Larry Brundy's album contains photographs and descriptions of hundreds of petroglyphs and pictographs of Coyote Springs Valley on Clark County's northern edge. She wants to record the rock art that is remarkable to her and sacred to the Paiutes before it is lost to looters and vandals who add modern graffiti next to ancient symbols. Keeping up with them is hard. Across Nevada and the West, urban developers, pot-hunters and vandals are stealing history by lifting artifacts and even the buried remains of American Indians. A black and white Anasazi bowl would sell for $20,000 in New York City. If the bowl came from federal land or any Indian burial site it's illegal to own, buy or sell it. That's where Internet sales can get sticky. Online auction houses and trading posts claim to obtain their relics legally. Paleontologists recently have said they fear even legal Internet sales could inspire illegal excavations.

CYBERIA Five students -- the entire fourth grade at Adams school -- entered a statewide contest last spring in which the State Historical Society of North Dakota invited fourth-graders to submit illustrations of military history sites in the state. In a contest that drew 113 entries, each of the five students from Adams placed, including winning first, second and third.