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.