City of Tulsa, TU celebrate Gilcrease Museum partnership

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Gilcrease Museum, which houses the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West, opened today under the management of The University of Tulsa in an unprecedented agreement with the City of Tulsa.

“This agreement is an innovative solution to the need for more a more unified management structure at the Gilcrease Museum,” Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor said. “The museum belongs to the citizens of Tulsa. This agreement ensures it remains there and flourishes for the benefit of all Tulsans under the management of The University of Tulsa, one of the nation’s most notable institutions for the study of American history, art and culture.”

In a major demonstration of community support for the public/private venture, TU has secured nearly $13 million in gift commitments since the agreement was announced. Leadership gifts were made by the following individuals and organizations: The Mervin Bovaird Foundation, H.A. and Mary K. Chapman Charitable Trust, J.A. Chapman and Leta M. Chapman Charitable Trust, Mr. and Mrs. Walter H. Helmerich III, Burt B. Holmes, George Kaiser Family Foundation, The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, and The Maxine and Jack Zarrow Family Foundation.

These gifts will add more than $2 million annually during the next five years to the museum’s operating budget, which will allow it to move forward with strategic improvements including hiring additional curatorial staff, expanding educational outreach, and restarting its conservation lab, which would be the only one in the state.

In October, the agreement was approved by the City of Tulsa, trustees of the museum, and the TU Board of Trustees. Under the agreement, TU will steward the museum and manage operations while the City of Tulsa retains ownership of the museum, collection and property. This streamlining of management will allow TU to advance and preserve the collection while providing opportunities for academic research of the museum’s extensive holdings.

“We look forward to playing a role in the advancement of one of the nation’s greatest and most admired assets,” TU President Steadman Upham said, “including the preservation of its treasures, the development of its educational potential and the affirmation of its position as a crown jewel for the City of Tulsa and a destination for scholars and visitors worldwide.”

The partnership allows the university, which is recognized among the top 100 in the nation, to leverage its intellectual capital to ensure the legacy of museum founder and Tulsa oilman, Thomas Gilcrease.

Duane King, director of the Gilcrease Museum and TU’s vice president for museum affairs, said Gilcrease’s new partnership with TU is being watched by others in the museum community who are looking to revitalize their institutions.

“The combination of TU’s academic enterprise and the Gilcrease collection opens new doors for advanced scholarship and community-based learning,” King said.

Gilcrease Museum is one of the country’s best facilities for the preservation and study of American art and history. The museum offers an unparalleled collection of Native American art and artifacts, as well as historical manuscripts, documents and maps. The Gilcrease Museum was founded in 1949 as a private museum by Tulsa oilman Thomas Gilcrease (1890-1962).

For more information, visit or call (918) 596-2700 or (888) 655-2278.