Gilcrease Museum – or more formally, the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art – is an integral part of many memories for those who have lived in the Tulsa area in decades past. Whether it was middle school trips, weekend jaunts or visits as an adult to fully appreciate the massive collection, Gilcrease has been a consistent part of the artistic culture in Oklahoma since its Tulsa opening in 1949. But the future for Gilcrease holds even more promise, as it’s currently closed for a complete overhaul in the form of a new construction.
This large undertaking has dual purposes, says Susan Neal, the museum’s executive director. The first is to offer a totally new visitor experience to its loyal patrons. The second is for the new building to keep this valuable collection safe for centuries of posterity. Neal mentions that within the museum walls are over 12,000 years of history; the new construction will allow Gilcrease, an art and history museum, to have the look, feel and experience of a 21st century cultural attraction.
The construction is going well, with three of its six stories complete, says Neal. The finished product will be 93,000 square feet, with two subterranean floors. To support the project, Gilcrease has raised almost $40 million from private sources.
“[This] lets us know that we have the support of the community behind this effort, and we’re excited that we can see the finish line in sight,” says Neal.
But she also reports that the museum still needs to raise an additional $20 million by the end of the year to stay on track. This money will be used to finish the exhibits, including the media, exhibit furniture fabrication, and complete reinstall of the collection.
As long as funds are raised, enthusiasts can expect to plan their next visit by the middle of 2026.
“I hope what people will find, when they come to visit Gilcrease, is that they’ll find themselves,” says Neal. “Because the stories that this collection can tell are so relevant to not just our history, but to our current day and our future. I think people will enjoy learning, and I think that the environment that we will create is going to be beautiful.”
In discussions with the community about concepts for the new Gilcrease, many mentioned the idea of incorporating the grounds into the museum itself – so that’s now part of the plan. The new facility will include an outdoor amphitheater and two outdoor terraces with views of Osage Hills, Stuart Park and downtown Tulsa. There will also be 14 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails that will connect to the Tulsa trail system.
“We’ve done this with the idea that that’s what the visitors want – to see the grounds incorporated into the museum experience,” says Neal. “To be in a beautiful outdoor setting on 460 acres just a few minutes from [Tulsa’s] urban center is really extraordinary.”