The Gilcrease Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

The Gilcrease Museum

Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States

The Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa exhibits a comprehensive collection relating to the history of the American West.

Antara Bate

24 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Daniel X. O'Neil / CC

About The Gilcrease Museum

The Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa exhibits a comprehensive collection of works of art and historic artefacts relating to the history of the American West. It also has a growing collection of items from Central and South America.

The Gilcrease Museum history

The Gilcrease Museum was founded as a private museum in 1949 by Tulsa oilman Thomas Gilcrease. Gilcrease built the nation’s most comprehensive collection of art of the American West, as well as extensive collections of historical documents and artefacts covering a range of historic periods.

Thomas Gilcrease was very interested in history, particularly that of Indigenous American people. In 1942 he formed the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation which, among other pursuits, supported philanthropic efforts including Indigenous American education. Art historians consider Gilcrease’s 1943 exhibition at his company headquarters in San Antonio to be the first museum ever devoted to Western American art.

His collection continued to grow significantly yet despite impressive acquisitions, there was not much enthusiasm for the collection in San Antonio. The display was closed in 1947 and the collection moved to Tulsa. The new facility called the Thomas Gilcrease Museum was opened in May 1949.

In 1954 the museum was promised to the City of Tulsa and in 1958 the deal was completed with the museum buildings and more than 13 acres of land deeded to the community.

The Gilcrease Museum today

Today the interdisciplinary collection contains more than 350,00 items and represents hundreds of indigenous cultures from across America, with artefacts ranging from 12,000 BCE to the 21st century. In addition to the number of permanent exhibitions including the Enduring Spirit exhibition showing distinct cultures of many indigenous people with an emphasis on Oklahoma’s tribal nations, there is also a year-round schedule of temporary exhibitions.

Next to the museum, The Helmich Center for American Research houses the Gilcrease Library and Archive which holds manuscripts, photographs, maps, rare books, print portfolios and broadsides related to the History of North America between the 15th and 20th centuries. The museum is surrounded by beautiful gardens and extensive grounds including 23 acres of themed gardens inspired by the Gilcrease collections.

Getting to The Gilcrease Museum

The museum is a short drive from downtown Tulsa and the lively Brady Arts District. If you are driving to the museum from any major north or south street in Tulsa go to Pine Street, turn west and continue to Gilcrease Museum Road.

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