Alumni Update: Unpacking the Philbrook Museum of Art

Museum Resources
Marketing & Aud Dev Associate
Museum Resources January 11, 2018 Featured Image

The Philbrook Museum of Art has a bit of a deceptive name – this place goes way beyond the traditional expectations of ‘art museum.’

Tucked away in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the art museum is housed within the historic home of Waite and Genevieve Phillips and includes expansive formal gardens and a stunning 1920s villa. The collection itself fits right into the beautiful backdrop, showcasing nine collections of art from all over the world.

TL:DR the Philbrook is straight up gorgeous – and our guides thought so too.

“First of all, it’s a GORGEOUS space, like Barbie fantasy dream house gorgeous. We were taken behind the scenes into some inner workings of the house that the public don’t get to know; a jail, old bowling alley, secret tunnels, 3 story player piano…” – Kate N. SF Guide.


The staff at the Philbrook wanted to complement their gorgeous collection by adding a little more flair and style to their tours, so they called us to learn our methods and shake up their tours with new ideas.

The Philbrook staff was stoked for their workshop.

We sent our guides Kate N. and Lia to help give the Philbrook staff a template on how to start giving tours in the Museum Hack style and to foster new ideas that support the museum’s new direction as it continues to grow as a cultural gem within the Tulsa community.

“From the start the Philbrook staff was so kind and welcoming that by the end I really felt sad to leave this little museum family we had made.They went above and beyond to show us all the things that made their museum special.” – Kate N., SF Guide

The pride the Philbrook staff took in their museum really gave our guides a sense that this space was someone’s home and showed how much their staff and the greater Tulsa community loves this unique institution.

Kate and Lia had a tough time choosing only one or two pieces for a mini-tour to show off our tour style; it would have been easy to dive head-first into the collection and create a full two-hour experience.

But, alas, Kate and Lia couldn’t just camp out at the Philbrook forever, so they focused the training on three things that would make their tours really pop:

  • Our signature 5 Elements of a Hack
  • Tour Scaffolding
  • Activity Design
We had a great time with the Philbrook staff workshopping some new ideas.

How’d it go? Our guide, Kate N. reflects:

“The workshop went so well, the staff was already on board with our craziness which made our job a million times easier and more fun.”

The staff came prepped with some awesome ideas, and with our template, the staff had a new system to build new elements into tours and exhibits. We always love workshops that end like this one: with everyone walking out with a smile on their face and new ideas brewing.

The workshop didn’t end there; the Philbrook put their training into practice right away.

The Philbrook was turned inside out for their latest exhibition, ‘Museum Confidential,’ which revealed practices, stories, and an unprecedented number of never-before-seen works of art. Philbrook Director Scott Stulen curated a unique, behind-the-scenes experience that illuminates the inner workings of museums, collections, and their workers.

Some of the amazing behind the scenes stuff included in the exhibition were:

  • Dozens of scheduled and pop-up programs and tours
  • A bi-weekly podcast in partnership with Public Radio Tulsa
  • Guests actively participate in continually curating the show
  • An absolutely juicy Museum-designed tabloid magazine

The average museum typically shows 5% or less of its collection at any given time. One section of the exhibition, ‘The Other 95%’ puts hundreds of rarely or never-before-seen items from Philbrook storage front and center through a large-scale, salon-style presentation, including everything from paintings and prints.

“Museums are much more than places to store beautiful objects,” said Scott Stulen. “They’re alive and constantly changing, full of stories, history, and collective community experience. They’re also a lot of fun.”

Ready to bring your collection to life? Our team would love to help make it happen. Email us at [email protected].

written with 💖 by Julia Kennedy

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