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Helmerich Center opens for Public Preview in Early September

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The much anticipated opening of the Helmerich Center for American Research is scheduled for September 5 – 7, 2014 with a series of events and activities for Gilcrease Museum members and the public. All events will be free and open to the public.

As a prelude to the weekend’s activities, on Wednesday, September 3 the Presidential Lecture at The University of Tulsa will feature Charles C. Mann, the author of 1493, a New York Times best-seller, and 1491, which won the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ Keck award for the best book of the year. A correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, Science, and Wired, he has covered the intersection of science, technology, and commerce for many newspapers and magazines in the United States and abroad. He has cowritten four other books, and written for HBO, and the television show Law and Order. He is a three-time National Magazine Award finalist, and has received writing awards from the American Bar Association, the American Institute of Physics, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Margaret Sanger Foundation and the Lannan Foundation (a 2006 Literary Fellowship).

Weekend activities at the museum will include engaging programs for adults and art projects for children and families. View the full list of programs online. Join us as we celebrate the opening of a new facility dedicated to research and scholarship.

The Helmerich Center for American Research will enhance scholarship opportunities relating to Gilcrease Museum, as well as secure broader international attention for Gilcrease and Tulsa. “With the development of the Helmerich Center for American Research, Gilcrease Museum is building on a legacy of outstanding scholarship and poised to move the museum’s scholarly pursuits and academic research forward,” said TU President Steadman Upham.

The facility will house the Gilcrease Library and Archive containing more than 100,000 rare books, documents, maps, and unpublished works.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. In April, TU named Gilcrease Museum Executive Director Duane H. King as executive director of the Helmerich Center.

“After a comprehensive search for a founding director of the Helmerich Center for American Research, the decision was made to tap Duane King to lead this critical facility for a number of important and strategic reasons,” said Upham. “In many ways, Dr. King is the perfect candidate for this post.

“He is an internationally recognized scholar who writes prolifically and speaks frequently around the country on Native American history and westward expansion, as well as the art, documentary and archaeological treasures of Gilcrease Museum. Dr. King also brings a deep knowledge of the Gilcrease collections and their potential as one of several anchor points for scholarly activities planned for our new center.”

“I’m honored to be selected as the inaugural director of the Helmerich Center for American Research. As director, the charge of caring for and utilizing the library and archives will allow me to continue the intellectual enterprise of Gilcrease Museum and expand museum scholarship to a worldwide audience,” King said.

During King’s tenure at Gilcrease, several milestones have been achieved: He led the transition of the museum management from the city to the university, collaborated with TU leadership to launch a new master’s degree program in museum science and management, and implemented a collection digitization initiative.

“The Helmerich Center for American Research opens the Gilcrease archival collection to scholars from around the world bringing the art and art history of the Americas to a global audience. In the future, Gilcrease will produce high-quality digital images of its archival items for wider use and publication,” said King.

The 25,000-square-foot center will host visiting faculty and students from around the world to conduct scholarly research on the collection. 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.

Additional facility highlights are a conservation laboratory, conference center, research offices and work areas, classrooms, a processing laboratory for electronic cataloging and digitization of the collections, and an outreach office to aid in the dissemination of education materials and scholarly research.

Tulsa businessman and philanthropist, the late Walter Helmerich III, and his wife, Peggy, provided the lead gift for the research center.

“The museum is deeply indebted to the Helmerich family for their long-standing support, which has made possible many advances by the museum over the past four decades,” said Upham.

Following the public preview weekend in September, the Helmerich Center will close again as the library and archival material is moved into its new home. It is expected to reopen in late 2014 with an inaugural symposium slated for February 2015.

Melani Hamilton