Duane H. King, Ph.D., named director of the Helmerich Center for American Research

TU President Steadman Upham and Duane H. King, Ph.D.
TU President Steadman Upham and Duane H. King, Ph.D.

The University of Tulsa is pleased to announce that Duane H. King, Ph.D., who has served as vice president for museum affairs and executive director of Gilcrease Museum for six years, has been selected to lead TU’s new Helmerich Center for American Research.

“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 TU President Steadman 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.”

The 25,000-square-foot Helmerich Center for American Research, located adjacent to Gilcrease, is nearing completion and scheduled to open this fall. The center will enhance scholarship opportunities relating to the museum as well as secure broader international attention for Gilcrease and Tulsa.

The facility will house the Gilcrease Library and Archive containing nearly 100,000 rare books, documents, maps, and unpublished works.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.

“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.

More recently, King has overseen the construction of the Helmerich Center for American Research, the first significant capital project at the museum since 1987. He played a significant role in securing more than $56 million in contributions for museum operations, programs and capital improvements, more than half of which has been contributed in support of the new Helmerich center.

King came to Gilcrease in May 2008. He previously served as executive director of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian/Autry National Center in Los Angeles since 1995 and had been appointed senior adviser for academic research and program outreach for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum for the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

King began his museum administration career in 1975 as director of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, N.C., and later as executive director of the Cherokee National Historical Society in Tahlequah, Okla.

He earned his doctoral and master’s degrees in anthropology from the University of Georgia. His dissertation was titled “A Grammar and Dictionary of the Cherokee Language,” while his master’s thesis was “An Analysis of Ceramics from Eighteenth Century Cherokee Sites in Tennessee.” He earned his bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

King’s move to the Helmerich center creates a vacancy in the position of executive director at Gilcrease. A national search will be conducted to identify a candidate who can manage the museum and work closely with the Helmerich center to develop exhibitions, programming and publications. In the interim, Susan Neal, TU’s vice president for public affairs, research and economic development, will serve as acting chief operating officer at Gilcrease.

The museum is owned by the City of Tulsa, which has partnered with The University of Tulsa to steward the museum since 2008.