Gilcrease Museum earns $500,000 Mellon Foundation grant

Mellon Grant
Woman’s red wool skirt and blanket with satin ribbon and embroidered flowers, Osage, wool, satin, 97.920

Tulsa World
James D. Watts

A $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will help Gilcrease Museum in its ongoing efforts to research and assess its wide-ranging Native American collections of art and artifacts.

The grant is the second major grant the museum has received in the past year. In 2019, the museum received an $890,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to finance the conservation and digitization of the museum’s collection of works on paper by Thomas Moran, as well as works by Plains Indians artists.

The grant from the Mellon Foundation provides funding for two new full-time positions within the museum’s curatorial department. These candidates will be responsible for researching and assessing the museum’s Native American collection, consulting with tribal representatives and identifying relevant objects for inclusion in future exhibitions.

“Our Native American collections make up about 60% of the museum’s holdings, so there are a lot of ways these new people could go in their research,” said Laura Fry, the museum’s curator of art.

The Gilcrease Native American holdings is made up of about 14,000 works of art, more than 100,000 archival objects and more than 250,000 objects of “material culture,” such as archeological and anthropological items.

Fry said the new assistants’ work will contribute to the museum’s new interpretive plan to use the collections to present a wider range of stories about America’s past — and their implications for the present — from multiple perspectives.

“We’re looking for people with a strong research and scholarly background, with an emphasis on the historical,” Fry said. “Our staff is fairly strong when it comes to 20th century and contemporary Native American art and culture, so we could use people with more knowledge on pre-1920 Native American art and history.”

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