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City of Tulsa to Build New Gilcrease Museum with Vision Funds Rather Than Renovate

Gilcrease Museum

The City of Tulsa will build an entirely new home for the Gilcrease Museum's collection of more than 350,000 items.

A mayor’s task force overseeing the $75 million project, which includes $65 million in Vision sales tax funds,  received in-depth reports from SmithGroup, an international architecture, engineering and design firm.

Surveyors examined the current structure, which consists of a 1913 building and four layers of renovations that were added between 1940 and 1987. The analysis of today’s Gilcrease demonstrated that a fifth addition to the existing structure would not meet museum operating standards.

SmithGroup recommended building an entirely new facility.

"This new direction for Gilcrease Museum will ensure more exhibit space and room for traveling exhibits while safeguarding Gilcrease Museum’s collections for decades to come," Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said in a statement. "Instead of making incremental improvements to an existing structure, the new facility will be able to maximize our museum offerings and create a full museum space both indoors and outdoors that match the true vision of Gilcrease Museum."

"We are fortunate to have the expertise of SmithGroup and Gallagher & Associates who have been involved with the design and construction of some of the country’s most significant museums. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to do this right, take Gilcrease into the 22nd century and ensure the city’s asset is sustained for years to come," Gilcrease Executive Director Susan Neal said in a statement.

Neither the City of Tulsa nor the University of Tulsa made someone available to comment on SmithGroup's recommendation.

Gilcrease officials approached 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 City of Tulsa's original request for qualifications on the project called for 20,000 square feet of new construction, which included 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 were to be renovated, including more than 31,500 square feet of exhibit space.

Officials estimated the improvements would draw another 500,000 visitors to the Tulsa area each year.

Note: KWGS 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.