A Funny Thing Happened at the Gilcrease....

Okay, so, it really wasn't funny. It was damned annoying. I sent the following letter to The Museum's Assistant Director. The only person higher on the ladder was the "President/Chairman" whom I suppose may well be a shadowy figure who doesn't "get involved."

6 January 1998

Gary F. Moore
Assistant Director
The Gilcrease Museum
1400 Gilcrease Museum Road
Tulsa OK 74127-2100

Dear Mr. Moore:

On Saturday 3 January 1998, I visited the Gilcrease with two friends. This was my fifth visit, the first four of which were with one of the friends who accompanied me. My previous trips to the Gilcrease had been enjoyable.

This visit was considerably less than enjoyable. Half an hour into it, all three of us felt followed. Shadowed. Almost harassed, by the docents/security guards/men in suits. At no time during my previous visits had I felt so pressured to leave. When we reached the Catlin paintings, I pointed to the facial expressions in one painting. I admit, my hand was less than a foot away, but more than six inches from the canvas. The "docent" in that area said sharply, "You're not touching that, are you?" I replied that I most certainly was not.

We did not remain, though we had perhaps a third of the exhibits left to see. Throughout the rest of our day, we discussed our visit to the Gilcrease. All three of us had felt uncomfortable in the atmosphere engendered by the docents' (in our opinion) excessive interest in us. We could not determine what created such interest on this particular trip. Was it the blue jeans? The fact that we were under sixty-five years old? By no stretch of the imagination could any of us be taken for uncontrolled teenagers, nor do I believe we were loud or obnoxious. We are reasonable, disciplined adults. We never reached a conclusion regarding the docents' behavior.

Mr. Moore, I have a Master of Arts degree in Public History. I have worked in museums, evaluated museums and their staffs, and I have worked with the National Park Service. Whether we were actually being "observed" by the docents is not my primary concern. The "docent" in the Catlin area could have handled this situation in many different ways. Some attempt at politeness would have been nice. He could have said, "Please don't touch the paintings." Or perhaps, "We prefer that you don't touch the paintings."

You may, of course, train your staff to whatever standard you feel adequate. As a visitor to your museum, may I recommend a little courtesy?

Clara Lee Rutherford
1329 S Meadowview Ave
Springfield MO 65804

If I get any kind of response from them, it's likely to be something along these lines:

"Geez, we're ever so sorry, we didn't know we were driving you crazy by following you and whispering into our walkie-talkies, and we're pretty sure it won't happen to you again. Maybe."

I'll post whatever reply I get, in case you're curious.

Update: As of 27 July 1999, still no word from the Gilcrease. Come now, did you really expect we'd hear from them?

Go back toTulsa.

Last edited 27 July 1999. Copyright 1999-2006.