Celebrating 50 Years

The Oklahoma Museums Association is celebrating 50 years of supporting Oklahoma museums in their efforts to educate, inform and entertain! Follow along using #OMAat50 as we share our history, celebrate accomplishments and charge into the future.

Donate here to support our next 50 years serving Oklahoma museums.  

OMA has been making a real difference for Oklahoma’s 500+ museums for 50 years. 
In celebration, we have set a goal to raise $50,000 this year and we have met it.  

Since 1972, OMA, a 501c3 charitable organization, has been honored to assist Oklahoma museums with their efforts to educate, inform, and entertain, and we need your help now more than ever to do just that. YOU can HELP make a very real difference for our Oklahoma museums. Supporting OMA at any level helps strengthen Oklahoma museums. As we celebrate our 50 year anniversary, we are encouraging donations to help us reach our goal of $50,000. Give securely online at OKMuseums.org/oma or paypalme/giveoma.  You can give a one time gift or become a monthly sustainer, either way, your support is appreciated. 

OMA is the primary provider of professional development, training, and technical information to staff and volunteers of Oklahoma's 500+ museums, historical societies, historic sites, zoos and botanical gardens, historic houses, living history museums, tribal cultural centers, and other museum-related institutions.

On behalf of OMA, Oklahoma’s museums, and the communities they serve, thank you very much for your support!  

Enjoy a look back at our last 50 years on the timeline below.
Fun facts will be added throughout the year.



OMA is 50 years old and growing stronger in its work to assist Oklahoma museums in their efforts to educate, inform and entertain! #OMAat50


OMA begins preparations for celebrating a half-century of service to the Oklahoma museum community with a “Toast to 50 and Beyond” at the 2021 OMA Conference in Shawnee.

After continued advocacy, the museum tax-emption bill was passed with into law.



OMA continues to plan and work for the future of all of Oklahoma’s 500+ museums. It comes full-circle by implementing a Community of Practice for small, rural and isolated museums.

OMA partners with associations from Texas, Florida, Virginia and California to develop a consortium of leading state museums associations working to impact the professional on a national level. This led to the later creation of COSMA, the Coalition of State Museum Associations.


In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Oklahoma born Chiricahua Apache artist Allan Houser’s birth, OMA coordinated a statewide collaboration of 12 Oklahoma museums and institutions who honored his memory, works and legacy with exhibits and programming.


The Oklahoma Department of Libraries was awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Service’s National Leadership Grants Connecting to Collections Program to address needs identified in the Oklahoma Cultural Heritage Trust Action Plan.  OMA was a major partner in the project, which offered a variety of 12 programs and services across the state of museums, libraries and archives.

OMA celebrates 40 years of service as the primary provider of training and technical information for staff, volunteers, board members and individuals interested in Oklahoma’s 500 museums, historic sites, tribal cultural centers and historical societies.

OMA had 521 members, serving 224 communities and all 77 counties of Oklahoma. OMA is regarded as one of the most active museum associations in the country.




OMA begins the tradition of attending the annual AAM Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. to support Oklahoma museums on a federal level.

OMA recognizes 35 years of incorporation and had 430 members, with an annual budget just under $200,000.


AAM along with OMA and the Governor, declared 2006 as Year of the Museum.

OMA began processing OMA registrations, memberships and donations online and started using software to track donor contributions and approved a new logo.

OMA continued to advocate for the sales tax exemption bill, which once again failed, and partnered with the Mid-America Arts Alliance on an IMLS Leadership Grant for the HELP program for small museums. OMA also participated in the first-ever Destination Makeover at the Washington Irving Trail Museum. OMA awarded 33 scholarships representing 24 institutions to OMA workshops. 


OMA programming and services continued to grow, reaching 75 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties and 224 communities. The OMA conference expanded to include a town hall meeting, job announcements and comments corner.

OMA actively co-sponsored Oklahoma Museums Week, Tourism Week, Archives Week and the Governor’s Conference on Tourism. OMA also contributed to the Southeastern Museums Conference fund for museums affected by Hurricane Katrina.

OMA launched a new membership brochure, thanks to a grant from the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. The first-ever OMA annual campaign kicked-off at the conference.

Cherie Cook left OMA in December after 11 years of service and Brenda Granger was named as her replacement. Stacy celebrated 10 years at OMA.

OMA distributed PSAs to 100 radio stations and debuted a new website, logo and colors of raspberry and blue. OMA participated in the Candidates for Governor Forum on Public Funding for the Arts and held workshops about photo archives and technology, internet marketing and outcome-based evaluation.

OMA was a sponsor of the Governor’s Conference on Tourism and started a members-only event, M!X.

OMA continued to provide advocacy efforts, focusing on gaining state sales tax exemption for all of Oklahoma’s museums. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass at that time.

OMA partnered with the Mountain-Plains Museums Association to offer a joint conference in Tulsa. A new and popular addition to the OMA website was the job board. OMA hosted workshops on museum missions, interactive learning and mannequins.

OMA’s governing council held a retreat that produced signification recommendations to change the organization’s bylaws including renaming the body from a council to a board of directors, replacing district alternate positions on the board with at-large members and adopting a new mission statement, which OMA members approved.

For the first time, OMA offered scholarships to workshops and OMA launched a new collections management training course for small museums called MARCH (Museum Accessioning and Registration Course).



OMA received an IMLS grant for the Oklahoma Museums for the Millennium pilot project that included 12 communities, museums, libraries and schools. The OMA lending library was greatly updated, and Stacy began working full-time. 


OMA moved to a new office space within the Omniplex, now Science Museum Oklahoma. The OMA website was launched, and OMA became a member of a nationwide state museum association group, the National Alliance of State Museum Associations.


OMA offered its first information fair for college students interested in the museum profession. OMA membership grew to more than 300!


Museums promoted Museums Week at the Capitol and OMA held a joint conference with the Mountain-Plains Museums Association in Guthrie. The Oklahoma Museums Educators (OKME) group was formed as an OMA standing professional committee. OMA also completed its survey of more than 300 outdoor sculptures as part of the national SOS! Project.



Following the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, OMA coordinated the city-wide Day for Children event. In June, the NEH project, Oklahoma: The Land and the People, was completed and the eight participating museums had openings for their exhibitions. 


OMA began a new NEH funded project, Oklahoma: The Land and the People. The project was to provide professional training in exhibit planning, research, interpretation and design to staff and volunteer teams in eight Oklahoma Museums. OMA staff and volunteers also began work on a two-year Save Outdoor Sculpture (SOS!) project that focused on surveying Oklahoma’s large variety of outdoor sculptures.

In July, Stacy Shelton O’Daniel was named the new coordinator of the TRACKS program.



Cherie Cook was welcomed as the new OMA director and a new, five-year long range plan for OMA was created and approved.


The OMA budget had grown to $113,000. Statewide seminars were held on exhibit interpretation, label writing and care of paper materials. The OMA field service offered 19 regional workshops and 24 on-site consultations. Sondra Kemnitzer moved from the field service to the OMA office and began as the TRACKS program coordinator.


OMA’s field service conducted 42 on-site consultations and four regional workshops. OMA also offered three statewide collections care training opportunities and the Oklahoma museum community hosted the Mountain-Plains Museums Association annual meeting. The National Endowment for the Humanities recognized OMA’S traveling exhibit service, TRACKS, as a model program.

A call for nominations was issued for OMA’s new awards program. OMA also received a $65,000 challenge grant from the Kerr Foundation to fund a field services program with the Oklahoma Historical Society co-sponsoring the project. Pledges were received from the McCasland Foundation and the Kirkpatrick Foundation. 

OMA’s membership totaled 95 and the budget had grown to $33,000. OMA’s traveling exhibit service called OMATES, which was established in 1982, was renamed TRACKS. 

Carolyn Pool began working part-time as the new OMA director. The office moved to the Kirkpatrick Center in Oklahoma City.
Donald Bridgewater became the director of OMA. The OMA newsletter was renamed MuseNEWS.
OMA participated in the first International Museums Day on May 18. OMA also sponsored workshops in Tulsa and Oklahoma City on volunteer programs.
In the spring, the OMA office relocated to Guthrie and Alvin Turner was hired as the director. OMA hosted the Mountain-Plains Museums Association (MPMA) Conference at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City.
The OMA office moved to the Neighborhood Development and Conservation Center in Oklahoma City. Membership totaled 150.
OMA became officially recognized as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit by the IRS. Additionally, OMA hired its first coordinator, Robin Tryloff, through grant funds from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Oklahoma Arts and Humanities Council, which is now known as the Oklahoma Arts Council, a tremendous support and partner of OMA. The first OMA offices were located at the Oklahoma Historical Society.
After incorporation, OMA’s programming flourished and included starting a technical bulletin series and two meetings per year. OMA’s dues were $3 for individuals and $10 for institutions. In 1974, the organization’s budget was $1,100.

On May 24, 1972, the Oklahoma Museums Association was officially established, 20 years after the initial meeting of interested professionals. According to the articles of incorporation, OMA was formed with the objective of promoting the welfare of museums and their advancement as educational institutions, as agencies of scientific research and as cultural centers; to foster continued improvement of the museum professional through the development and observance of high standards of ethics, conduct, education and scholarly attainments; to increase and diffuse knowledge through meetings, reports, papers, discussions, publications and various media of publicity and communication; and to encourage cooperation among Oklahoma museums and those interested in them. OMA still continues to execute these same intentions today!
The third time is a charm! After several meetings and discussions throughout the early 1960s, formal workshops were held which led to the formal establishment of an association. This image is of one of the first OMA logos in the 60s. Our current logo pays homage to this classic logo.

The need for a state museums association in Oklahoma is first recognized and informally discussed among 25 professionals from around the state. Although there was great interest in forming an association at the time, an organization was not developed. This issue of Time Magazine discusses the rise in popularity of visiting museums. In fact, by December of 1952, more people had visited New York’s Metropolitan Museum than had visited the Yankee Stadium! It also discussed curatorial and custodial importance at museums.