Gilcrease Museum

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Gilcrease Museum
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Gilcrease Museum main entrance
Former name Gilcrease Institute
Established 1943 (1943)
Location Tulsa, Oklahoma
Coordinates 36°10′29″N96°01′17″W / 36.17472°N 96.02139°W / 36.17472; -96.02139 Coordinates: 36°10′29″N96°01′17″W / 36.17472°N 96.02139°W / 36.17472; -96.02139
Type Art Museum
Founder Thomas Gilcrease
Owner City of Tulsa
Gilcrease Museum: Entrance hall with painting of the Battle of Chapultepec Gilcrease - Grosser Saal mit Schlacht von Chapultepec.jpg
Gilcrease Museum: Entrance hall with painting of the Battle of Chapultepec

Gilcrease Museum is a museum located northwest of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. The museum houses the world's largest, most comprehensive collection of art of the American West, as well as a growing collection of art and artifacts from Central and South America. The museum is named for Thomas Gilcrease, an oil man and avid art collector, who began the collection. He deeded the collection, as well as the building and property, to the City of Tulsa in 1958. Since July 1, 2008, Gilcrease Museum has been managed by a public-private partnership of the City of Tulsa and the University of Tulsa. [1]

Museum institution that holds artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, historical, or other importance

A museum is an institution that cares for (conserves) a collection of artifacts and other objects of artistic, cultural, historical, or scientific importance. Many public museums make these items available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. The largest museums are located in major cities throughout the world, while thousands of local museums exist in smaller cities, towns and rural areas. Museums have varying aims, ranging from serving researchers and specialists to serving the general public. The goal of serving researchers is increasingly shifting to serving the general public.

Tulsa, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Tulsa is the second-largest city in the state of Oklahoma and 45th-most populous city in the United States. As of July 2016, the population was 413,505, an increase of 12,591 over that reported in the 2010 Census. It is the principal municipality of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area, a region with 991,005 residents in the MSA and 1,251,172 in the CSA. The city serves as the county seat of Tulsa County, the most densely populated county in Oklahoma, with urban development extending into Osage, Rogers, and Wagoner counties.

Artifact (archaeology) Something made by humans and of archaeological interest

An artifact, or artefact, is something made or given shape by humans, such as a tool or a work of art, especially an object of archaeological interest.


The Helmerich Center for American Research at Gilcrease Museum was added in 2014 at a cost of $14 million to provide a secure archival area where researchers can access any of the more than 100,000 books, documents, maps and unpublished materials that have been acquired by the museum. [2]


Charles Deas - Sioux playing ball, 1843, oil on canvas Charles Deas - Sioux playing ball.jpg
Charles Deas - Sioux playing ball, 1843, oil on canvas

Thomas Gilcrease grew up in the Creek Nation, located within present day Oklahoma. At the turn of the 20th century the federal government distributed lands held by American Indian tribes to private citizens. His tribal membership entitled him to an allotment of 160 acres (0.65 km2) located south of Tulsa near Glenpool. The land subsequently became part of one of Oklahoma's major oil fields, and Gilcrease proved to be an able businessman. In 1922, he founded the Gilcrease Oil Company, and in less than ten years had greatly expanded his original holdings. Thomas Gilcrease traveled extensively in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. His visits to European museums inspired him to create his own collection. Pride in his American Indian heritage and interest in the history of the American West provided a focus for his collecting.

Oklahoma State of the United States of America

Oklahoma is a state in the South Central region of the United States, bordered by Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, Texas on the south, New Mexico on the west, and Colorado on the northwest. It is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the fifty United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people". It is also known informally by its nickname, "The Sooner State", in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date of lands in the western Oklahoma Territory or before the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which dramatically increased European-American settlement in the eastern Indian Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged into the State of Oklahoma when it became the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.

Native Americans in the United States Indigenous peoples of the United States (except Hawaii)

Native Americans, also known as American Indians, Indigenous Americans and other terms, are the indigenous peoples of the United States, except Hawaii. There are over 500 federally recognized tribes within the US, about half of which are associated with Indian reservations. The term "American Indian" excludes Native Hawaiians and some Alaska Natives, while Native Americans are American Indians, plus Alaska Natives of all ethnicities. Native Hawaiians are not counted as Native Americans by the US Census, instead being included in the Census grouping of "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander".

In anthropology, a tribe is a human social group. Exact definitions of what constitutes a tribe vary among anthropologists, and the term is itself considered controversial in academic circles in part due to its association with colonialism. In general use, the term may refer to people perceived by a population to be primitive and may have negative connotations. The concept is often contrasted with other social groups concepts, such as nations, states, and forms of kinship.

Gilcrease purchased his first oil painting titled Rural Courtship by Daniel Ridgway Knight in 1912 for $1,500, but most of the collection was amassed after 1939. The first Gilcrease Museum opened at his oil company headquarters (at that time located in San Antonio, Texas) in 1943. Within a few years, he returned to Tulsa with his oil company and his growing collection. He opened a gallery for public viewing on his Tulsa estate in 1949. [3]

Oil painting process of painting with pigments that are bound with a medium of drying oil

Oil painting is the process of painting with pigments with a medium of drying oil as the binder. Commonly used drying oils include linseed oil, poppy seed oil, walnut oil, and safflower oil. The choice of oil imparts a range of properties to the oil paint, such as the amount of yellowing or drying time. Certain differences, depending on the oil, are also visible in the sheen of the paints. An artist might use several different oils in the same painting depending on specific pigments and effects desired. The paints themselves also develop a particular consistency depending on the medium. The oil may be boiled with a resin, such as pine resin or frankincense, to create a varnish prized for its body and gloss.

Daniel Ridgway Knight American painter

Daniel Ridgway Knight was an American artist born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

San Antonio City in Texas, United States

San Antonio, officially the City of San Antonio, is the seventh-most populous city in the United States, and the second-most populous city in both Texas and the Southern United States, with more than 1.5 million residents. Founded as a Spanish mission and colonial outpost in 1718, the city became the first chartered civil settlement in present-day Texas in 1731. The area was still part of the Spanish Empire, and later of the Mexican Republic. Today it is the state's oldest municipality.

Gilcrease collected at a time when few people were interested in the art or history of the American West, and so his collection grew rapidly. During the early 1950s, he acquired numerous works of art, artifacts, and documents. Declining oil prices made it difficult for him to finance major purchases. Faced with a seemingly insurmountable debt, Gilcrease offered to sell his entire collection in order to keep it intact. In 1954, fearing that Gilcrease Museum would leave Tulsa, a small group of citizens organized a bond election. The voters of Tulsa approved, by a 3-to-1 margin, the bond issue that paid Gilcrease's outstanding debts. This kept the collection in the city. [3]

Thomas Gilcrease then deeded his collection to the city of Tulsa in 1955. In 1958, the Gilcrease foundation conveyed the museum buildings and grounds to the city of Tulsa. In addition, Gilcrease committed oil property revenue to Tulsa for assistance in maintaining the museum until the $2.25 million bond was fully repaid. In the years following the transfer of the collection, Thomas Gilcrease continued to fund archaeological excavations and acquire additional materials for the collection. Upon his death in 1962, he bequeathed to the museum the material he had collected during his final years.

Many famous American artists have their work displayed in Gilcrease Museum's American West Gallery. Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington, Thomas Moran, and Joseph Henry Sharp are featured prominently. Also on display at the Gilcrease Museum are works by Charles Marion Russell, Alexandre Hogue, and John James Audubon. After his death in 1955, the widow of artist William Robinson Leigh gave his New York studio to the Gilcrease Museum. [4]

Albert Bierstadt 19th-century American landscape painter

Albert Bierstadt was a German-American painter best known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West. To paint the scenes, Bierstadt joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion. Though not the first artist to record these sites, Bierstadt was the foremost painter of these scenes for the remainder of the 19th century.

Frederic Remington 19th and 20th-century American artist

Frederic Sackrider Remington was an American painter, illustrator, sculptor, and writer who specialized in depictions of the American Old West, specifically concentrating on scenes from the last quarter of the 19th century in the Western United States and featuring images of cowboys, American Indians, and the U.S. Cavalry, among other figures from Western culture.

Thomas Moran 19th and 20th-century American artist

Thomas Moran was an American painter and printmaker of the Hudson River School in New York whose work often featured the Rocky Mountains. Moran and his family, wife Mary Nimmo Moran and daughter Ruth, took residence in New York where he obtained work as an artist. He was a younger brother of the noted marine artist Edward Moran, with whom he shared a studio. A talented illustrator and exquisite colorist, Thomas Moran was hired as an illustrator at Scribner's Monthly. During the late 1860s, he was appointed the chief illustrator for the magazine, a position that helped him launch his career as one of the premier painters of the American landscape, in particular, the American West.

Thomas Gilcrease believed that the story of the American West could be told through art and that the history of the native Americans and his own American Indian heritage could be preserved through painting, sculpture, and other forms of art. He was a patron to a number of native American artists of his time and purchased over 500 paintings by 20th century native American artists alone.

Gilcrease Museum has a long-term native American exhibition. Enduring Spirit: Native American Artistic Traditions permits the museum to showcase some of the major strengths of the permanent collection as well as provide a much more comprehensive and integrated presentation of the museum's native American art collections.

Currently, the museum owns about 10,000 pieces of art, including 18 of the 22 bronze sculptures that were created by Frederic Remington.

On July 1, 2008 the University of Tulsa assumed management of the museum through a public-private partnership with the City of Tulsa. [5]


Gilcrease - Creek war bonnet (1970) Gilcrease - Federkopfschmuck.jpg
Gilcrease - Creek war bonnet (1970)

At Gilcrease Museum, the anthropology collections and the work of the department of anthropology focus on the cultural history of North, Central, and South America. The collections comprise 300,000 artifacts, covering prehistoric and historic archaeology and ethnographic materials from native American, Hispanic, pre-Columbian, and Anglo-American cultural traditions. The ethnographic and historical materials span the period from European exploration of the Americas to the current day.

These diverse materials help tell the story of the many peoples and cultures that have made the history and exploration of the new world unique and complex. Especially noteworthy in the archaeological collections at Gilcrease Museum are items from the Mississippi valley region (present-day Illinois and Arkansas), the southwestern U.S. (Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona), and ancient Mexico. Gilcrease Museum has one of the most important collections of pre-Columbian projectile points (arrow and spear heads) in North America, and has become a resource that is regularly consulted by archaeologists. The museum also has a research facility containing sliding glass display shelves for artifacts and a computer database system to help find various pieces. This facility, the Kravis Discovery Center, also has numerous "touchable" items for a hands-on experience for its visitors.

Archival collection

The archival collection at Gilcrease Museum contains over 100,000 books, manuscripts, documents, and maps ranging from 1494 to the present. Items of special interest are: A letter dictated and signed by Diego Columbus in 1512, the Cortez Decree of 1521, copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation (signed by Benjamin Franklin), and a letter written by Thomas Jefferson dated July 1, 1776. The museum also has a substantial collection of manuscripts by Cherokee principal chief John Ross and Choctaw Chief Peter Pitchlynn. [3]

Helmerich Center

The Helmerich Center for American Research at Gilcrease Museum is an archival center on the museum grounds that permits researchers to access the many rare documents housed at the museum.These items may only be used in the Reading Room, an environmentally controlled, secure area, designed to protect them against loss or damage. [lower-alpha 1] The documents themselves are stored in a hardened concrete structure that was designed to protect them from severe weather events like tornadoes. The secured connector passage between the Reading Room and the document storage area was inspired by the "Vasari Corridor" in Florence, Italy. The same structure that contains the Reading Room also contains the Great Hall, which is used for many purposes, such as fund raising events, conferences, and short-term gallery displays. The Center was designed by Hastings & Chivetta, completed in 2014, contains 32,000 square feet (3,000 m2) of space and cost approximately $14 million to construct. [2]

Gilcrease gardens

Gilcrease Museum's gardens draw thousands of visitors a year. Gilcreasegardens wiki.jpg
Gilcrease Museum's gardens draw thousands of visitors a year.

Using the Gilcrease collections as a guide, themed gardens have been developed on twenty-three of the museum's 460 acres (1.9 km2). These gardens enhance the museum's collections by reflecting gardening styles and techniques from four time periods in the American West: Pre-Columbian, Pioneer, Colonial, Victorian, as well as a rock garden.

Gilcrease is the only known art museum to have these educational and inspirational gardens on one site nestled in the Osage Hills. Special garden tours are available by appointment.

Vision 2025 expansion plan

Voter approval of an 0.6 percent sales tax (known as Vision 2025) on April 5, 2016, [lower-alpha 2] proposed to allocate $65 million for a major expansion/improvement program of Gilcrease Museum. Highlights of the program include:

See also


  1. The museum houses approximately 100,000 rare books, documents, maps and unpublished works.
  2. The vote passed. [6]
  3. Museum officials say that the present space is sufficient only to display about five percent of the museum's collection to visitors at any one time. [7]

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