Museums and Collections
For many years the university has received gifts of artistic and scientific value from alumni, collectors and friends of the university. As a result, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and the Charles M. Russell Center for Study of Art of the American West possess many valuable collections.
Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
2401 Chautauqua Ave., Norman, OK 73072-7029
Phone: (405) 325-4712
The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, located just south of the intersection of Timberdell Road and Chautauqua Avenue, has extensive collections in earth, life and social sciences, including more than seven million specimens and artifacts. These collections represent a vast and irreplaceable resource of the natural and cultural heritage of Oklahoma and many other parts of the world. The SNOMNH is the official museum of natural history for the state of Oklahoma as well as an independent research unit of the University of Oklahoma. The museum curators conduct original research and teach in their collection areas, while overseeing the research of graduate students and visiting scientists. The curators also maintain an active lending program that makes specimens available to scholars throughout the world. The collections provide the basis for a variety of exhibitions, public service programs and educational activities. Major collection areas include vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology, archaeology, classical art, entomology, ethnology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate zoology, mammalogy, ornithology, paleobotany and Native American languages.
The 198,000-square-foot facility contains space for extensive permanent and traveling exhibits as well as a café, gift shop, education classrooms and a hands-on Discovery Room.
- The Siegfried Family Hall of Ancient Life leads visitors on an adventure through time. Visitors begin their journey in Oklahoma’s Precambrian seas where they can view the wealth of Paleozoic marine life known from our state. Mesozoic exhibits showcase the Age of the Dinosaurs and feature the largest Apatosaurus and Pentaceratops in the world, as well as Saurophaganax maximus, Oklahoma’s official state fossil and the largest of the Jurassic predators. Cenozoic exhibits tell the story of the many unusual mammals that lived in Oklahoma after the extinction of the dinosaurs until the end of the last Ice Age, including the Columbian mammoth and Smilodon, the sabre-toothed cat.
- The Noble Drilling Corporation Hall of Natural Wonders features the diverse plant and animal life of Oklahoma in a series of realistic 'immersion" style walk-through dioramas. Visitors can view an oak and hickory forest, examine life in an Ozark stream, explore a walk-through limestone cave, and learn about life in the mixed grass prairie.
- The McCasland Foundation Hall of the People of Oklahoma tells the fascinating story of human history in Oklahoma, from the earliest archaeological evidence of humans in the state, around 30,000 years ago, to modern Native Americans living in Oklahoma today. Highlights include the “Cooper skull:” the skull of an extinct bison painted with a lightning bolt design which, at 10,000 years old, is the oldest painted object in North America. Visitors to this gallery also can experience reproductions of the houses made by the Mississippian people, builders of Oklahoma's famous Spiro Mounds, and see examples of modern era objects from the museum's extensive Native American collections.
- The Merkel Family Foundation Gallery of World Cultures features cultural objects from around the world, chosen from the museum's diverse ethnology collection. Cultures represented range from ancient Greece and Rome to Oceania, Tibet, Japan and West Africa. Highlights include a full suit of armor from a Japanese Samurai warrior, a Tibetan ceremonial apron and cap made of carved bones, and a collection of Chinese ornaments and seals. Here, too, you will see colorful clothing from the museum's collection of Mayan textiles, hand-woven by modern Mayan artisans in southern Mexico and Central America. Also featured are beautiful wooden masks and toys made by Mayan people throughout the region. This gallery also includes examples from the museum's excellent collection of classical Greek and Roman antiquities, such as an Attic black-figure "eye cup," made around 525 BCE, and a large section of mosaic found in Antioch (modern Turkey) and dating to around 100 CE.
- The Fred and Enid Brown Native American Art and Special Exhibitions Gallery and the Dorothy C. Higginbotham Special Exhibitions Gallery are spaces for special exhibitions both from the museum's own collections and from other museums around the world. Check the museum's website for a listing of current and upcoming exhibitions.
With collections that document 500 million years of Oklahoma’s natural history, the SNOMNH is one of the finest university-based natural history museums in the world. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m on Sunday. It is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
The museum also is available for after-hours rental for banquets, receptions and other events. For more information, visit the museum’s website or call (405) 325-4712.
Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West
520 Parrington Oval, Room 202, Norman, OK 73019-3011 (mailing)
409 West Boyd, Norman, OK 73069 (physical)
Phone: (405) 325-5939
Founded in 1998, the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West is the first such university-based program in the nation. The center, which opened to the public in the fall of 1999, is dedicated to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge in the field of American art history as it relates to the western United States. Through its resource center, national symposia, course offerings and related outreach programs, the Russell Center actively engages students and the public in developing a better understanding of, and appreciation for, 19th- and 20th-century Euro-American and Native American artistic traditions. Special emphasis is given to art of Charles M. Russell and his contemporaries. The Russell Center was established concurrently with the Charles Marion Russell Chair, an endowed professorship in art history at the University of Oklahoma. Both the center and the endowed chair were made possible through a generous gift from the Nancy Russell Trust and matching funds from the state of Oklahoma. Administered through the School of Visual Arts and the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts, the Russell Center operates in concert with several of the University of Oklahoma’s other distinguished branches including the Western History Collections, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and the departments of History, Literature, Native American Studies and Film and Video Studies. The Russell Center also actively interfaces with institutions across the country, including museums of Western art and universities that support related programs or collections of Western material culture or art.
The Russell Center is both a facility and a program designed to inspire and excite interest in the study of American Western art, an aesthetic history that enjoys both a regional and a national dimension. While a branch of American art, Western art also incorporates European artistic traditions that have, over time, been adapted to themes, experiences and environments unique to the western United States. Art of the American West also encompasses Native American cultures as both subjects of art and as creative forces.
During much of America’s history, the West has been a defining national symbol. Although considered a region by Euro-Americans, the West was also a myth, a dream and inspiration, a collection of individual experiences, a process of westering and a destination. For Native Americans, however, process and destination played little part in their thinking. For them, the West was something spiritual as well as physical, a sacred domain as well as a common home. The center’s course of study in the art of the American West seeks to discover what the West symbolized and to whom and why.