Since its founding 75 years ago in a graceful 1920s mansion, Philbrook Museum of Art has grown to become one of the preeminent art museums of the central United States. The cornerstone of its permanent collection is its wide-ranging survey of Native American art, from traditional basketry to 20th-century paintings. Other highlights include Renaissance and Baroque paintings from the Kress Foundation and an American art collection including 15 paintings by Andrew Wyeth.
Outside, the museum's 23 acres of grounds includes a lush garden whose trails run alongside native Oklahoma plants and plants that relocated to Oklahoma after college. An architectural addition features an auditorium, restaurant, library, and education studios, many of which host the Philbrook's interactive, enlightening programs and events. In the summer, these include daytime art camps for six- to 12-year-olds and a nighttime film series that screens features in the garden. The Philbrook's growing modern and contemporary art collections can be found at a satellite campus in downtown Tulsa, which also contains the Eugene B. Adkins Collection and Study Center of Native American Art.
What began in 1965 as a traveling exhibit from the Jewish Museum in New York transformed into a permanent space for art pieces that encompass various aspects of Jewish life. The museum now bears the name of its first curator, Tulsa native Sherwin Miller, whose dedication to Judaism and art embodies the museum’s mission to "preserve and share the legacy of Jewish art, history and culture."
To cultivate its educational environment, The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art maintains permanent collections such as the Jewish History and Culture exhibition, in which visitors can peruse fine art in the form of brilliantly colored tapestries by Israeli artist Reuven Rubin and archeological artifacts from the Middle Bronze Age through the Iron Age. Other displays include the Kaiser Holocaust Exhibition on the first floor and the Oklahoma Jewish Experience, which tells the stories of immigrants and showcases memorabilia from Oklahoma synagogues and families. In addition to its collections, the museum also showcases rotating exhibits of visiting works of art and seasonal educational displays with craft projects geared toward specific holidays.
Kaleidoscope Children's Museum transports kids into a pint-size world, touting 13,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits that ignite the imagination. Wee ones rule in Kid's City, a microcosm of society with a café, grocery store, barbershop, doctor's office, post office, and a miniature jail for locking up pinky-swear violators. Two rock walls soar 20 and 22 feet into the air, beckoning aspiring spider monkeys to scale their faces, and a multilevel play structure with two slides entertains playground explorers. Tykes can rock out on stage or solve a who-dun-it in Kaleidoscope's detective mystery lab. Snoezellen, a multisensory black-light room, appeals to little ones' five senses with glow-in-the dark toys, Van de Graaff static-electricity spheres, and oxygen-flavored air.
Thomas Gilcrease learned to love the American West as a boy growing up in the Oklahoma Territory during the early 1900s, but it took a trip to Europe to ignite his passion for preserving and sharing the region's distinctive culture and history. Inspired by the vast displays of Old World artwork he viewed during his overseas travels, he used the wealth he amassed in Oklahoma's oil fields to assemble an immense collection of art and artifacts. This collection found its current home in 1949 when Gilcrease founded what would become the Gilcrease Museum.
The museum's exhibit halls, library shelves, and refrigerator doors brim with historically and culturally significant pieces, including more than 10,000 Western American artworks by nationally renowned painters and sculptors, 100,000 rare books, maps, and manuscripts, and 250,000 Native American artifacts. Although exhibits change throughout the year, they tend to explore the impact of westward expansion while also celebrating the region's natural beauty and honoring its roots in Native American culture.
Beyond its walls, the Gilcrease Museum features 23 acres of themed gardens, which embrace landscaping design and agricultural practices from the pre-Columbian, Colonial, and Victorian eras, among others. These gardens allow visitors to interact with displays that are simultaneously historical and alive, serving as a symbolic reminder of western America's cultural growth and development.
The building that houses the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum doesn't just contain historical artifacts?it's a piece of history itself. Built in 1919 by Sam and Julie Travis during the prosperous years of Tulsa's second oil boom, the mansion sits on 28,000 square feet of manicured landscape that now houses a Vintage Garden brimming with architectural artifacts and bronze sculptures.
Of course, this is just part of the history museum's draw. In the years since its 1963 founding, the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum has amassed a collection of more than 50,000 photographs, 10,000 books and manuscripts, and 6,000 other objects that bear the essence of Tulsa or Oklahoma history, ranging from furniture and fine art to military uniforms and civilian clothing. Curators pull from this ever-growing collection to create themed exhibitions in the museum's eight separate galleries. Every exhibition changes at least once a year, giving repeat visitors a chance to make new discoveries about subjects such as Tulsa life in the Great Depression, the Tulsa Race Riot, and the history of Tulsa baseball.
In 1919, discouraged that artifacts of Wichita and Sedgwick County were disappearing, the Sedgwick County Pioneer Society began collecting and displaying historical items in the Sedgwick County Courthouse. Nearly a century later, what began as a modest collection of early memorabilia has expanded to nearly 70,000 Sedgwick County and Wichita-related artifacts, which together trace the history of the region from 1865 to the present. Now housed in Wichita’s original, renovated City Hall, the collection’s photographs, clothing, decorative arts, and household items enrich award-winning exhibits that tell tale of the area’s Buffalo-hunting days, Great Depression–era dust storms, and aircraft industry.
The museum is also home to three re-created environments from the region’s past. The garage re-creation holds a 1916 Jones Six automobile, the only such Wichita-built vehicle on public exhibit, and the drug store reproduces the feel of the popular early 20th-century neighborhood gathering place. Over in the Wichita Cottage, seven rooms of a Victorian-style 19th-century home house authentic period items such as a wooden icebox, a gas-and-electric ceiling light fixture, and a phone powered by animosity toward Rutherford B. Hayes.