Gilcrease Museum, an examplar of American art, rare books and history, has been a Tulsa staple since its founding in 1949, and it’s only getting bigger. The museum is set to substantially expand in 2014 with the completion of the Helmerich Center for American Research, which was announced in 2010.

The construction, an 18-month project spearheaded by a donation from the Helmerich family, led by The University of Tulsa and bolstered by more than $17.5 million in contributions from the city’s philanthropic community, will add 25,000 square feet of floor space to the campus, including new spaces for the museum’s extensive archives, a seminar room and a conservation laboratory, as well as new spaces for the public.

Dr. Duane King, executive director of Gilcrease Museum, says that the project’s completion will be not only a great resource for researchers, but also a boon for students and the public to see seminars and get hands-on experience with materials that they might otherwise not have easy access to.

One of the first tasks of the Research Center will be to digitize the extensive holdings of Gilcrease Museum and make them available electronically, says King. “We will be able to provide not only greater access to the collection, but also interaction between the scholars working at the museum and the university with researchers and scholars elsewhere.”

With the construction of new educational spaces, King says the museum will be able to expand its educational programs, which it offers in partnership with The University of Tulsa, to more students than ever before. Working in the Helmerich Center’s facilities will also allow students a greater access to internships and scholarships, as well as invaluable practical experience and hands-on, face-to-face learning with seasoned experts in history.

“We fully expect to have seminars, conferences, lectures with people onsite as well as with scholars and researchers from around the world,” King says. “So those students who are planning careers in the museum profession have the opportunity to receive high-quality classroom instruction as well as practical experience in a museum setting.”

In addition to bolstering education for local Oklahoma students and the public, the Helmerich Center will also more prominently place Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum as a player in the international intellectual community, curating and fostering exhibits that tour worldwide, having just closed an exhibit in Florence, Italy, that attracted an audience of 300,000.

Back home, for the current season, Gilcrease Museum is currently one of the nation’s only three museums to host a travelling exhibit of the artworks of the western painter Edgar Payne, as well as a majestic collection of rare National Geographic photographs documenting the history of the west.

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