Tulsa Attractions: A Guide to Museums in Tulsa; Part 1

Part One of Tulsa Museums

Tulsa is a city rich in American history, heritage and creative expression - from its Native American origins to its oil industry growth to its art deco landmarks. With this history, a plethora of Tulsa attractions has been established through the years. Some of these museums are world renown for their impressive collections, while others are more of a local curiosity.

This article lists four Tulsa museums of note: The Arkansas River Historical Society Museum, the Elsing museum, the Gilcrease museum, and the Ida Dennie Willis Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys.

This article is part 1 of a series of articles, which will be forthcoming over the next few weeks as information is gathered, and research is verified.

Museums in Tulsa: The Early Days of Modern Transportation on the Arkansas River.  Image on display at the Arkansas River Historical Society Museum at the Port of Catoosa.
Museums in Tulsa: The Early Days of Modern Transportation on the Arkansas River. Image on display at the Arkansas River Historical Society Museum at the Port of Catoosa.

Tulsa Attractions: The Arkansas River Historical Society Museum at the Port of Catoosa

Ever since the first inhabitants of Oklahoma settled on her soil, they have been using the Arkansas River as a source of transportation. The Arkansas River Historical Society Museum documents the history of this great river. This museum remains one of the most unique Tulsa attractions in the area.

The museum covers everything from Native American use of the Arkansas River to modern cargo transport methods. In the Arkansas River Historical Society Museum, there are special exhibits on Civil War river lore, Archeology and artifacts along the River, waterway memorabilia, a motorized model of a Lock and Dam, and a vast photographic archive.

As a special display, the towboat M/V Charley Border is permanently docked adjacent to the museum and education center. The towboat served the Port of Catoosa for over thirty years.

Adjacent to the Arkansas River Historical Society Museum, the Port of Catoosa is the farthest inland seaport in the United States, linking Tulsa to the Arkansas River and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico.

Situated only 15 miles from Tulsa, The Port of Catoosa is the largest port in Oklahoma and runs a total of 445 river miles. Typically, it takes a commercial tow around ten days to get to New Orleans from the port. Interestingly, there are three designated Foreign Trade Zones along the navigation system at the public ports at Little Rock, Muskogee and Catoosa.

Museum Hours/Tours:
The Museum is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 
Entrance is free of charge, donations are accepted.
Telephone: (918) 266-2291.
Museum Location:
From I-44 or I-244 take Route 169 North to "Tulsa Port of 
Catoosa/46th Street North" exit. Proceed on 46th Street North 
(about 5 miles) to intersection at Port entrance. Go straight 
to enter Port on Main Parkway. Follow signs approximately 1 mile 
to Port Authority Building.--The Museum is in the Port Authority 
building. 

Museums in Tulsa: Asian display at the Elsing Museum at Oral Roberts University. The Earth Science Professor, Dr. Meleen, cares for the museum.
Museums in Tulsa: Asian display at the Elsing Museum at Oral Roberts University. The Earth Science Professor, Dr. Meleen, cares for the museum.

Tulsa Attractions: Elsing Museum

TheElsing Museumis an amateur geologists dream. With over 3,000 specimens of spectacular minerals, priceless gems, and natural art this vast collection would please any amateur geologist. The Elsing Museum collection includes 200 different mineral species that represent the different regions in Oklahoma, as well as hundreds of rare specimens from around the world. Within the museum, special exhibit rooms are set aside for fluorescent minerals and delicate carvings.

Although the Elsing Museum centers on geology, amateur archeologists would be equally impressed. The museum houses a similarly extensive collection of fossils, Native American artifacts, and oriental carvings. Again, there is a great variety of regional archeological artifacts in the Elsing Museum. These artifacts range from crudely chiseled Native American spear heads and religious symbols to carvings of intricately sculpted ivory pieces.

The museum began in the 1950’s. In Joplin, Missouri, Willard Elsing opened a small rock and mineral shop, building on the ore minerals of the Tri-State Lead and Zinc Mining area. This Route 66 store quickly became a success, and Elsing soon acquired pieces from all around the world. He kept the most rare and unusual pieces, which ultimately ended up in the Elsing Museum.

After retirement, Elsing moved to Tulsa and began offering tours of his vast collection. In the mid-1970’s, people would visit the fledgling museum that was opened on the grounds of the University Village Retirement Home. Willard would personally give tours to all who visited. Three years before his death in 2004, he donated his entire collection to Oral Roberts University for use in a museum. The vast collection has been housed on the ORU campus since 2001

A visitor’s first glance of the Elsing Museum makes it clear that countless years of enthusiasm and careful selection by Willard Elsing has resulted in an irreplaceably unique exhibit.

Street Address
Learning Resources Center
7777 S. Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74171
Phone: 918-495-6262  

Museum Hours
Wednesday through Saturday from 1:30-4:30 or by appointment.
Free Admission.
 Once you get to the Information Desk, ask the attendant to call the
museum at extension 6220, and someone will come and take you on a tour of the museum.

Museums in Tulsa: "Sacred Rain Arrow," a 1998 bronze sculpture by Allan Houser (Chiricahua Apache), at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Museums in Tulsa: "Sacred Rain Arrow," a 1998 bronze sculpture by Allan Houser (Chiricahua Apache), at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa Attractions: The Gilcrease Museum

The Gilcrease Museum exemplifies the spirit of the American West. Thomas Gilcrease, a wealthy oilman, spent over half of his life collecting art that depicted scenes from the American West, as well as Native American life.

During his lifetime, Thomas Gilcrease collected more than 10,000 artworks, 250,000 Native American artifacts and 100,000 rare books and documents. Among this collection is the only surviving certified copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, both signed by Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane.

The Gilcrease Museum now holds the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West. This collection grows seemingly constantly. Almost every day, new artifacts are brought into the museum, including artifacts from Central and South America, as well as other rare western art.

Collections inside the Gilcrease Museum include works from Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington, Thomas Moran, and Joseph Henry Sharp are featured prominently. There are also displays in the Gilcrease Museum from artists such as Charles Marion Russell, Alexandre Hogue, and John James Audubon.

In addition to the sculptures and works of art, themed gardens have been developed on 23 of the museum's 460 acres. These gardens have all been based on Gilcrease collections. The Gilcrease gardens reflect gardening stiles and techniques from four time periods in the American West: Pre-Columbian, Pioneer, Colonial, Victorian, as well as a rock garden.

The Gilcrease Museum is the only known art museum to have these types of educational and inspirational gardens on one site.

1400 N Gilcrease Museum Rd
Tulsa, OK 74127
(918)596-2700

Treasures of Gilcrease: Selections from the Permanent Collection
Treasures of Gilcrease: Selections from the Permanent Collection

Civilized people generations hence will rise up and call you blessed for what you are doing," famed Texas author J. Frank Dobie wrote his longtime friend Thomas Gilcrease during the summer of 1950.

This Guide to the Gilcrease museum offers not only information about permanent exhibits, but a detailed and rich history behind the man who made it possible.

 
Museums in Tulsa: The Ida Dennie Willis Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys
Museums in Tulsa: The Ida Dennie Willis Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys

Tulsa Attractions: The Ida Dennie Willis Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys

In an old 1910 Tudor mansion northwest of downtown Tulsa, the Ida Dennie Willis Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys is a whimsical delight for all to see. Encompassing 13 rooms on two floors, the museum displays over 2,000 dolls, dollhouses, toys, and miniatures.

The Willis Museum was owned by Mrs. Ida Dennie Willis, a retired schoolteacher who had a passion for dolls. Most of the items that are on display were collected by Willis through the years, and had such a special place in her heart that she could not let them go. Instead of hiding these priceless treasures away, Ida Dennie Willis decided to share them with the world.

In the Willis Museum, a good majority of the items date from the early 1900’s through the 1980’s. Some of the collections include: Fannie Hill’s "One Thousand Dolls," Eddie Fay Gates’ ethnic dolls, as well as dolls used in advertising, a collection of Native American Dolls and artifacts from the collection of Buena V. Green, handcrafted miniature houses and a Gypsy caravan by Carl Smith.

While the collection is impressive, the mansion that this museum is housed in is equally impressive. Even without the toys, the 100 year old house is worth a visit.

On Friday, October 6, 2009, Ida Dennie Willis passed away at the age of 80. Still, her legacy and love of toys and dolls lives on at the Ida Dennie Willis Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys.

Willis Museum Hours:
11:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Wednesday thru Saturday
Closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday

The Ida Dennie Willis Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys
628 North Country Club Drive
Tulsa, OK 74127
(918) 584-6654 

 Admission:
$3.00 Seniors
$3.50 Adults
$3.00 Age 12 - 17 
$2.50 Children

Tulsa Attractions

While there are many more Tulsa attractions to be listed, one cannot possibly keep up with them all.  Tulsa is in such a state of growth that it would be impossible to write an article on each and every Tulsa attraction so I have included this link as well. 

For more Tulsa attractions, including an activities and events list, go to visittulsa.com.

Insiders' Guide® to Tulsa (Insiders' Guide Series)
Insiders' Guide® to Tulsa (Insiders' Guide Series)

Insiders' Guide to Tulsa is the essential source for in-depth travel and relocation information to this sophisticated Oklahoma city. Written by a local (and true insider), it offers a personal and practical perspective of Tulsa and its surrounding environs.

 

Museums in Tulsa: Images from the Arkansas and the Port of Catoosa

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tulsa Attractions: The Arkansas River in TulsaTulsa Attractions: Under the 21st Street Bridge in TulsaTulsa Attractions: The Bridge to Jenks, Oklahoma crossing the Arkansas RiverTulsa Attractions: Ariel view of the Port of CatoosaTulsa Attractions: The well-respected tug boat at the Port of Catoosa
Tulsa Attractions: The Arkansas River in Tulsa
Tulsa Attractions: The Arkansas River in Tulsa
Tulsa Attractions: Under the 21st Street Bridge in Tulsa
Tulsa Attractions: Under the 21st Street Bridge in Tulsa
Tulsa Attractions: The Bridge to Jenks, Oklahoma crossing the Arkansas River
Tulsa Attractions: The Bridge to Jenks, Oklahoma crossing the Arkansas River
Tulsa Attractions: Ariel view of the Port of Catoosa
Tulsa Attractions: Ariel view of the Port of Catoosa
Tulsa Attractions: The well-respected tug boat at the Port of Catoosa
Tulsa Attractions: The well-respected tugboat at the Port of Catoosa

Museums in Tulsa: Images from the Gilcrease Museum

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tulsa Attractions:  The Gilcrease Museum of ArtTulsa Attractions:  Colonial GardenTulsa Attractions:  Native American in BronzeTulsa Attractions:  "The Indian", Frederic RemingtonTulsa Attractions:  The Gilcrease Mansion on the Grounds of the Museum
Tulsa Attractions:  The Gilcrease Museum of Art
Tulsa Attractions: The Gilcrease Museum of Art
Tulsa Attractions:  Colonial Garden
Tulsa Attractions: Colonial Garden
Tulsa Attractions:  Native American in Bronze
Tulsa Attractions: Native American in Bronze
Tulsa Attractions:  "The Indian", Frederic Remington
Tulsa Attractions: "The Indian", Frederic Remington
Tulsa Attractions:  The Gilcrease Mansion on the Grounds of the Museum
Tulsa Attractions: The Gilcrease Mansion on the Grounds of the Museum

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katescats 6 years ago from Central Texas, USA

Wow! I will have to go to Tulsa. It is such an interesting place, esp. the miniature museum. You should work for the tourism dept., you are good.

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