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Gilcrease Museum Looking for Architects to Tackle $75M Renovation and Expansion

Gilcrease Museum

The search is on for the firm that will handle renovating and expanding Gilcrease Museum.

Voters approved $65 million for the project through the Vision Tulsa sales tax renewal, and a $10 million dollar private donation to museum operator the University of Tulsa has pushed the total budget to $75 million. Gilcrease Executive Director Susan Neal said this is a big moment for the publicly owned museum.

"We’ve never had the opportunity to do with it and make the most not just of the collection, but of this beautiful location sitting right here in the Osage Hills," Neal said.

The goal is creating a visitor-friendly museum that’s easy to navigate, engaging and shows more of the Gilcrease collection.

"It was built to house art, but it wasn’t really built for families, for people to come and learn and have a great educational opportunity as well," Neal said.

Gilcrease officials are approaching the overhaul from the inside out. The museum hired design firm Gallagher & Associates to develop an interpretive plan that covers topics like how artifacts will be grouped and displayed, and how technology can enhance visits.

The plan calls for exhibits to be grouped into three core ideas: This American Landscape, Identities and Communities, and Encounters and Interactions.

"It truly is a museum of the Americas, from Panama to the Arctic, and covers literally 12,000 years of history," Neal said. "So, I think we have many stories to tell, and this could be a very exciting opportunity for this city."

The City of Tulsa's request for qualifications on the project calls for 20,000 square feet of new construction, which will include a new entry, a 5,000-square foot changing exhibition gallery, 10,000 square feet of storage space and a new building facade.

More than 64,000 square feet of the existing museum are to be renovated, including more than 31,500 square feet of exhibit space.

Officials estimate the improvements will draw another 500,000 visitors to the Tulsa area each year.

Public Radio Tulsa is licensed by the University of Tulsa.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.