In 1972 the Oklahoma Museums Association (OMA) incorporated as a nonprofit organization. OMA's mission is to support the state's museums in their efforts to educate, inform, and entertain. The organization does this by developing its internal resources, building networks among members and member institutions as well as with various publics, encouraging public awareness of the existence, purposes, and value of museums, promoting professional growth among museum employees and volunteers, providing professional services to museums, and advocating on behalf of museums. The 1972 board of directors included Sarah Ball, Yukon; Martha R. Blaine, Oklahoma City; James Fricke, Madill; R Pearl Golden, Claremore; J. Keever Greer, Norman; I. C. Gunning, Wilburton, Charles Hair, Ponca City; Gabrille W. Jones, Tulsa; R. W. Jones, Oklahoma City; Earl Metcalf, Aline; James N. Miles, Lawton; Bill Pitts, Alva; Henry Secondine, Delaware; and Charles Wallis, Warner.
OMA's beginnings, however, go back to the 1940s or 1950s, according to long-time members, although no records exist. References in later records note meetings held in October 1960 and in May 1961 at the Stovall Museum, in Norman. Twenty-two persons from twelve museums attended.
After 1972 incorporation, OMA began to grow. The annual budget increased from $100 in 1971 to $1,100 in 1974 and then to $2,600 in 1975. Headquarters offices were maintained in Oklahoma City. In 1976 the association hired its first paid coordinator, Robin Tryloff, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Oklahoma Arts and Humanities Council. OMA also began publication of a newsletter, since 1981 called MUSENEWS.
By 1977 membership totaled one hundred individuals and approximately fifty institutions. In 1978 the association relocated in Guthrie, and Alvin Turner became director. In February 1981 Donald Bridgwater became director, and he was followed in 1983 by Carolyn Garrett Pool. The offices returned to Oklahoma City, located in the Kirkpatrick Center.
In the mid-1980s funding from the State Arts Council helped OMA offer more programs. Over the next ten years the organization's services continued to expand. Numerous professional development workshops and seminars and an annual conference allowed members to receive training and to network with museum staff and volunteers from across the state. The TRACKS traveling exhibits program, underwritten by the Oklahoma Humanities Council, offered more than two dozen exhibitions that rotated monthly between museums, libraries, and schools in Oklahoma communities. In 1988 funding from the Robert S. and Grayce B. Kerr Foundation, McCasland Foundation, Kirkpatrick Foundation, and Southwestern Bell Telephone enabled OMA, in cooperation with the Oklahoma Historical Society, to begin providing field advisory services to museums and historical societies, especially the small, rural ones. By 1990 the budget had grown to $113,000. In the next few years the organization continued to offer seminars and regional workshops, and published technical bulletins, educational programs, and a museum reference guide. In 1993 Pool was succeeded by Cherie Cook as director.
In the 1990s a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities enabled OMA to provide professional training in exhibit planning, research, interpretation, and design to eight Oklahoma museums. A second major project of that decade was participation in a two-year survey of outdoor sculpture in Oklahoma, Save Outdoor Sculpture! (SOS). In 1992 OMA's Museum Education Project, produced cooperatively with the Humanities Council, received an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History.
OMA holds an Annual Fall Conference and annually awards recognition for quality projects, publications, and personal service to the field. At the end of the twentieth century, individual memberships totaled 221 and institutional memberships numbered 143.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Cherie Cook, "Oklahoma Museums Association, 1972-1997, 25th Anniversary of Incorporation," (Oklahoma City: OMA, 1997). MUSENEWS, Vols. 1-23 (1975-97). Records of the Oklahoma Museums Association, 1968-97, Oklahoma Museums Association, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Cherie A. Cook
© Oklahoma Historical Society