Oil and gas museum envisioned
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Monday, February 04, 2013
2/04/13 at 8:04 AM
City Councilor Skip Steele has been dreaming of late about a museum.
"On either side of the entrance you would have oil derricks," Steele said. "Arched over the entrance would be a big sign: Oil Capital of the World. That is my vision. It would be so cool to see that."
Steele is not proposing that the city fund the museum. He believes there are still enough Tulsans around who made their names and fortunes in the business that the private sector could get it built.
"I think those individuals would love the idea of being involved in a project to design and develop, as well as fund, a museum that would basically be a monument to their accomplishments," Steele said.
Steele envisions a museum that would not just celebrate and memorialize the past - it would educate future generations of Tulsans.
"I am thinking that the University of Tulsa and OU have departments that are heavily involved in chemical engineering," Steele said. "They might want to be involved in this to make it more of a teaching and educational museum."
Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, said the state has no museum dedicated to its rich history in oil and gas production.
"Do we need an oil and gas museum in Oklahoma? The easy answer, yes. How do we do it is much more complicated," Blackburn said.
Raising the capital to construct a museum is one thing, Blackburn said, keeping it up and running - with fresh exhibits, is another.
The proposed Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa, for example, is expected to have an annual operating budget of $2.1 million, Blackburn said.
Blackburn said the Oklahoma Historical Society is always willing to work with organizations dedicated to preserving Oklahoma's past but that the Historical Society's contributions come in the form of collections and skill sets - not funding.
"We haven't added a museum since 1986," Blackburn said.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett, whose family has been involved in the oil business for decades, said the idea of an energy industry museum "is certainly something that is a worthy cause."
"I would be interested to hear what other cities, what their success has been," Bartlett said.
Steele said the Red Fork neighborhood in southwest Tulsa - the site of the first oil well in Tulsa County in 1901 - would be a natural site for the museum. The museum would also benefit from the traffic off of historic Route 66, which winds through the neighborhood, Steele said.
Dianne Bileck, executive director of Red Fork Main Street, which promotes development through the restoration and maintenance of historic structures, said she was unaware of Steele's effort but that she likes the idea.
"Of course, Red Fork Main Street is always supportive of anything an investor wants to do as long as it is supportive of our culture and history," she said.
Steele, for all his dreams, said he is not trying to tell anyone what the museum should look like or include. He just wants to get the conversation going, and hopes to corral the support of his fellow councilors.
"I just want to put the people together that have the resources to make it happen, put them in a room and give them all the support I can," he said.
Oil and gas museums
Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, said there are no state-operated oil and gas museums.
There are, however, exhibits on the oil and gas industry at state-operated museums in Oklahoma City, Healdton, Bartlesville and Enid.
Private museums in Ponca City and Bartlesville were constructed and are funded by ConocoPhillips to record that company's history.
Original Print Headline: Oil, gas museum envisioned
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313
Skip Steele: The city councilor envisions a museum celebrating the state's oil and gas heritage, built and funded by private citizens.