Gilcrease Welcomes World-Class Research Facility
By EMILY RAMSEY
ANTICIPATED OPENING: Duane H. King, executive director of Gilcrease Museum and the University of Tulsa vice president of Museum Affairs, speaks about the Cherokee Indian Nation and the John Ross Papers during the grand-opening weekend of the Helmerich Center for American Research, Sept. 6-7.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
On Sept. 6-7, Gilcrease Museum and the University of Tulsa welcomed more than 4,500 visitors to the grand-opening celebration of the Helmerich Center for American Research.
The University of Tulsa announced plans in September 2010 to develop and construct the research facility, which sits on the museum grounds.
The research center was made possible by many community donations, with the lead gift coming from Tulsa businessman and philanthropist, the late Walter Helmerich , and his wife Peggy.
“We are fortunate that so many in the community understand the importance of Gilcrease and realize the collection should be shared with the public,” says Duane H. King, executive director of Gilcrease Museum and the University of Tulsa vice president of Museum Affairs. “If not for their generosity, we would not be able to do as much as we’ve done.”
The 25,000-square-foot research center houses the Gilcrease library and archive containing nearly 100,000 rare books, documents, maps and unpublished works. The collection includes a vast archive of printed documents dating back to the time of Columbus that detail Spanish arrival in the New World, as well as documents that tell the stories of the New England colonies, Westward expansion and the experiences of America’s native peoples.
“We have documents that are 500 years old and older,” King says, “and documents that are in 16th -century Spanish and English,” making the facility’s conservation laboratory, which helps to treat and preserve aging documents, vital.
In addition, “documents housed at the facility will be digitized and catalogued. This will help to track and record documents and provide greater access to make them more easily available and easily studied,” says King.
The facility also includes a conference center, research offices and work areas, classrooms, a recording studio and media production center, and an outreach office to aid in the dissemination of education materials and scholarly research.
Also thanks to the new facility, opportunities to bring in nationally- and internationally-recognized scholars and researchers will grow, says King. “We will be able to accommodate more people because of our increased space and staff members.”
Through scholarships, the center will host scholars who are invited due to their expertise to help with certain exhibits or publications, individuals who are working on books, articles, dissertations who need access to artifacts, and researchers who need access to our collections, King continues.
In addition, the center’s gathering spaces will create opportunities for seminars, lectures and exhibitions that will engage both professional audiences and the general public.
For example, in March, the research center will host a symposium with 10 nationally-recognized speakers who will discuss the strengths of the archival collection.
With the enhanced facilities and quality materials, King anticipates a steady growth in artifacts and attention for the museum and research center.
“We have already had inquiries for bringing in more documents as way to preserve them for future generations,” he says. “The strengths of a museum are going to attract more materials.”