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Tulsa, Oklahoma
Conserving America’s Treasures in Tulsa
Joanna Didik, conservator, works in the paper conservation lab at the Helmerich Center for American Research at the Gilcrease Museum. Image courtesy of the Gilcrease Museum.

With one of the world’s greatest collections of art and artifacts pertaining to the American West, the Gilcrease Museum was founded in 1949 by Thomas Gilcrease, an Oklahoma oilman. The Museum houses his collection of more than 12,000 works of art and more than 100,000 paper documents. These include Frederic Remington’s depictions of nineteenth-century Native Americans and cowboys; Albert Bierstadt’s awe-inspiring landscapes; and Benjamin Franklin’s certified copy of the Declaration of Independence, which he carried with him as an envoy to France. Until recently, however, the Gilcrease did not have a chief conservator: someone to make sure that its collections were consistently cared for and protected. With a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which helped it raise an additional $1.2 million, the Gilcrease was able to endow a chief conservator position.

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