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.