Mellon Grant to Fund Native Americans Collections Research

Gilcrease Museum has recently been named a recipient of a three-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation totaling $500,000. This award will support curatorial capacity and research of the museum’s broad Native American collections.

Founded in 1969, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest funder in arts and culture and humanities in higher education.

Specifically, the grant provides funding for two new full-time positions within the museum charged with researching and assessing the collection, consulting with tribal representatives and identifying relevant objects for inclusion in future exhibitions. The insights gleaned will ultimately serve the new interpretive plan, contributing a wider range of stories about America’s past – and their implications for the present – from multiple perspectives. This project will include research in the Gilcrease collection of art (roughly 14,000 objects), archives (more than 100,000 objects) and material culture (more than 250,000 objects).

Additionally, the work will enhance the museum’s overall knowledge of its collection, in turn providing curatorial and exhibition staff with in-depth content.

“We are honored to be the recipient of such a prestigious grant and are eager to begin the important work ahead of us,” said Susan Neal, executive director of Gilcrease Museum. “This Mellon Foundation grant benefits not only the museum, but the people of our state. The rich contributions of Native peoples can be more fully celebrated and showcased through the research made possible by this opportunity. This award comes on the heels of our Henry Luce Foundation grant this summer and results in more momentum for the museum, our staff and future vision.”

The opportunity for strategic staff expansion comes at a pivotal time as Gilcrease embarks on the biggest transformation in its 70-year history. As a result of the upcoming renovation and expansion, Gilcrease is making a fundamental change to how it tells the museum’s stories and displays the collection. With the research and findings of the Mellon-funded positions, along with the current curatorial team, Gilcrease has a great opportunity to re-examine its approach to storytelling and better serve the community.

“The sheer volume of our collection can be daunting at times,” Neal said. “Awards like these that allow us to invest in top talent are critical to our work. They help make it possible to increase our organizational knowledge, work closely with Oklahoma tribes, share more of our collection with the world and contribute to the larger field of Native American art and history.”

Through research and collaboration with tribal representatives and museum professionals, Gilcrease intends to use the new scholarship to reach diverse audiences with an expanded narrative. Approximately 60% of its collection is related to Native American artists or tribes, so the Mellon Foundation grant provides a unique opportunity for Gilcrease Museum to gain an even deeper appreciation for its Native American collections.