The Sam Noble Museum at The University of Oklahoma inspires minds to understand the world through collection-based research, interpretation, and education.
Oklahoma’s Museum of Natural History
The history of the state of Oklahoma is inextricably linked with the remarkable history of the oil industry. The individuals identified here are true Oklahoma Oil Pioneers whose work laid the groundwork for the oil and gas industry in a young state. Their stories are not only inspirational, but serve as testaments to the extraordinary opportunities the early oil industry provided for individual achievements and public good. Although these individuals are now deceased, their stories of hard work, foresight, courage and accomplishment against overwhelming odds speak to generations of Americans.
Thanks to University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren, Museum Director Michael Mares and Vice President for University Development David L. Maloney, this plaza reflects the museums mission of celebrating Oklahoma’s history.
So whether you’re enjoying lunch outside the cafe, pausing for a quick photo or strolling through our gardens, take a moment to reflect upon the beautiful Conoco Oil Pioneers of Oklahoma Plaza and the people who inspired it.
The McCasland Foundation Hall of the People of Oklahoma traces the 30,000-year history of the Native people of the state. Exhibits begin with the earliest archaeological evidence of humans in Oklahoma, and travel through time to an examination of what it means to be Native American in Oklahoma today. The entry walls are covered in handprints made by representatives from 26 of Oklahoma’s 39 federally recognized tribes.
Gallery highlights include the “Cooper Skull,” the crushed skull of a now-extinct bison, painted with a red zigzag pattern. At 10,000 years old, it is the oldest painted object in North America. An audio-visual display takes you to the box canyon in northern Oklahoma where this important artifact was found.
Walk through full-scale reproductions of the pole houses or climb into a reproduction of a cedar canoe in the Mississippian Cultural Universe exhibit. The people of the Mississippian culture, who lived 1,200 years ago, built these structures and Oklahoma’s famous Spiro mounds.
Continue through time and explore the modern-era exhibits that focus on the Native American experience in Oklahoma in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, including examples of clothing, toys and other objects that represent ceremonial and everyday traditional activities of the western tribes.
Oklahoma boasts the fourth-highest biodiversity of any of the 50 United States. Some of the unique habitats that make this diversity possible are featured in the Noble Drilling Corporation Hall of Natural Wonders. Surround yourself in the sights and sounds of Oklahoma’s natural landscapes in this beautiful gallery where “immersion” style dioramas make you feel as if you are walking through the environments.
In the Ozark highlands diorama, oak and hickory branches arch overhead and you are surrounded by the sound of birdsong and rushing water. You can stop to examine the life of a highland stream, spot warblers and other birds in the branches, and discover the hidden life of the forest floor.
Explore a walk-through limestone cave, where you can experience the life of bats, blind crayfish and other animals that make their homes in near to total darkness.
The mixed-grass prairie diorama is dominated by a pair of majestic bison and is full of details and surprises. A rattlesnake rattles a warning as you approach, and butterflies open and close their wings. A close look reveals bees in the flowers, a black-tailed jackrabbit in the grass, and much more.
The dramatic landscape of Black Mesa, Oklahoma’s highest and driest point, features plants and animals found nowhere else in the state. The 2,000-square-foot exhibit is the Sam Noble Museum’s most recent—and interactive—addition to the Hall of Natural Wonders, spilling over the boundaries of the diorama’s enclosed display area to include touch-screen computer interactives and a naturalistic walkway where museum visitors can pass under large cottonwood trees through a short-grass prairie habitat alongside a stream.
Life in Oklahoma has existed for quite a long time – over 4 billion years, to be exact. Step into the past as you tour Oklahoma’s rich prehistory, from the formation of the planet through the last Ice Age in the Siegfried Family Hall of Ancient Life. In this remarkably detailed gallery, the past comes to life through spectacular models, interactive tools, detailed dioramas and exhibits featuring the paleontology collection’s most impressive specimens.
Begin your journey by gazing upon a cutaway model of Earth as you discover how our planet was formed. Uncover the history of plate tectonics as you learn about the techniques scientists use to date rocks and fossils.
Touch Oklahoma’s prehistoric roots as you run your hands along a large meteorite. Explore a piece of the oldest surface rock found in Oklahoma or feel the cratered surface of stromatolites – dome-shaped rocks that were produced by one of the earliest forms of life on the planet.
As you pass between a Paleozoic and Jurassic realm, explore the exotic world of a Pennsylvanian coal swamp forest, packed with plants and animals from nearly 300 million years ago. Gaze upon dragonflies with wingspans nearly two feet wide, or pet the ridged back of the Arthropleura, a six-foot-long ancestor of the modern millipede.
Look out! Two dinosaurs fight to the death in “The Clash of the Titans”, the gallery’s centerpiece exhibit. The world’s largest Apatosaurus extends his long neck as he faces a most fearsome, Oklahoma predator, the Saurophaganax. Flee the battle and take a ride in the museum’s glass dinovators. There, you will meet the Apatosaurus eye to eye.
Continue on your prehistorical voyage and watch as a mother Tenontosaurus protects her young from a pair of marauding Deinonychus. Then behold the breathtaking, fully articulated skeleton of the Pentaceratops, whose 10.5-foot skull holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s largest.
Finally, witness the mass extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago as you enter the Cenozoic Era. Stroll up to the massive skeletons of the ancient mammals of Oklahoma’s Ice Age as you pass between worlds. As you end your voyage, walk beside a Columbian mammoth or Arctodus, the short-faced bear. But watch out! The Smilodon saber-toothed cat is always on the prowl.
Merkel Family Foundation Gallery of World Cultures features a treasure trove of fascinating 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.
This exhibit is currently not on display.
Opened to the public on May 1, 2000, the Sam Noble Museum at the University of Oklahoma is one of the finest natural history museums in the world. 50,000 square feet of exhibit space trace over 500 million years of Oklahoma’s natural and cultural history. Founded in 1899, the museum collections include 10 million specimens and artifacts from the life sciences, earth sciences and social sciences and are reflected in the wonderfully rich and informative permanent exhibit galleries.
What does the museum do? Why do they do it? How does it get done? The Noble Corporation and Noble Energy Orientation Gallery answers these questions – and more! This interactive gallery provides insight into the behind-the-scenes work of our museum’s collections and research departments. Learn about the ongoing research of museum scientists as you browse some of the most spectacular specimens and artifacts from our extensive collection.
As you enter, say hello to Sauroposeidon proteles, the world’s tallest dinosaur. The 40-foot-long neck and skull peek into the museum’s Great Hall to greet visitors. Like many of our visitors, this dinosaur is an Oklahoma native. In fact, several neck bones of this one-of-a-kind specimen were unearthed in southeast Oklahoma in 1994. Each neck bone measures more than 3 feet in length, but is surprisingly lightweight. In some places, the bone is no thicker than a fingernail!
Whether you are learning about Oklahoma’s prehistoric past, fauna of the present or the museum’s future research endeavors, the Orientation Gallery is the perfect place to begin your journey at the Sam Noble Museum.
This rich and inviting interactive exhibit is inspired by the Harvard classic A Forest Journey: The Role of Wood in the Development of Civilization by science writer John Perlin. It sheds new light on the history of the use of wood throughout the world, on forest products (from paper to lifesaving pharmaceuticals) and on the relationship between forests and the benefits of trees.
John James Audubon (1785-1851) is one of the most enduring figures in American Art, the conservation of nature and the study of birds.
This exhibition will give visitors the rare opportunity to view an extensive collection of the original “double-elephant” prints from The Birds of America, the work that made Audubon famous. Produced from 1826 to 1838, the images revolutionized our view of birds and nature. The exhibition will trace Audubon’s remarkable life and place his work in context with examples of earlier bird illustrations, works by his contemporaries and the continuation of our fascination with birds up to the present day.
Some 35 of Audubon’s works and those by about 70 other artists, from before and after his time, are shown in this beautifully organized exhibit showing how bird art evolved from the 1500s to the present day and illustrates Audubon’s unique genius. The exhibit includes bird woodcuts, etchings and paintings by various artists from the Renaissance to the present. Exhibit sponsored by Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores.
Kevin Carroll’s first exhibition, The Art of Sport and Play, is a personal look at selected pieces of memorabilia gathered from Kevin’s travels around the world. The heart of the collection is a group of handcrafted balls created by children with found materials from their native lands. With a playful spirit, The Art of Sport and Play tells a story about the universal power of sport. Created for all ages, the exhibit shows that sport and play are common human denominators and equalizers. No matter where you go in the world sport and play is ever-present – we ALL PLAY + we ALL SPEAK BALL.
Acclaimed author of Rules of the Red Rubber Ball and What’s Your Red Rubber Ball?!, Carroll grew up in Philadelphia playing as many sports as he could find. He played whatever sport was in season – soccer, football, basketball, baseball – and the red rubber ball was always there. It became a powerful symbol of sport while he ran, chased, caught, kicked, bounced and threw balls. His passion for sports has led to a life of advancing sports and play as a vehicle for social change.
When George Miksch Sutton arrived in Norman in the spring of 1952 to begin work at The University of Oklahoma, he was already an acclaimed artist, writer, explorer and teacher. His passionate interest in ornithology and the natural sciences had led him on several expeditions in the continental US as well as the Arctic north, Mexico and South America. By the time of his death in 1982, he had written 13 books, over 200 scientific journal articles and illustrated at least 18 books.
George M. Sutton: Exploring Art and Science features 75 watercolor paintings from George Miksch Sutton’s Mexico, Arctic and US expeditions. Also in the exhibit will be personal items from Dr. Sutton’s life and travels, including the watercolor paint box given to him by his mentor, Louis Agassiz Fuertes in 1916 when Sutton was 18. The paint box was treasured by Sutton and accompanied him on every major expedition.
The exhibit will also include rare video of Dr. Sutton speaking about his art and how he painted some works direct from life.
Skateboarding is one of the most popular sports on Indian reservations, inspiring and influencing American Indian and Native Hawaiian communities since the 1960s. “Ramp It Up,” sponsored by Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, features 20 skate decks, including examples from Native companies and contemporary artists, rare images and video of Native skaters. Highlights include a never-before-exhibited 1969 image taken by skateboarding icon C.R. Stecyk III of a skate deck depicting traditional Native imagery and 1973 home-movie footage of Zephyr surf team members Ricky and Jimmy Tavarez (Gabrielino-Tongva).
The exhibition features the work of visual artists Bunky Echo-Hawk (Yakama/Pawnee), Joe Yazzie (Navajo), Traci Rabbit (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) and Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo) and highlights young Native skaters such as 22-year-old Bryant Chapo (Navajo), 13-year-old Augustin Lerma and 10-year-old Armondo Lerma (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians).
As skateboarding continues to rise in popularity in Indian Country, Native skaters and entrepreneurs have combined core lessons learned from the sport — strength, balance and tenacity — with traditional tribal iconography and contemporary art to engage Native youth in their history and culture. “Ramp It Up” examines the role of indigenous peoples in skateboarding culture, its roots in ancient Hawaiian surfing and the visionary achievements of contemporary Native skaters. Skateboarding combines demanding physical exertion, design, graphic art, filmmaking and music to produce a unique and dynamic culture. “Ramp It Up” illustrates how indigenous people and tribal communities have used skateboarding to express themselves and educate their youth.
Gain a global perspective on the food and the environment through spectacular photos from the award-winning book by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio. Visitors will meet ten families from around the world photographed in their kitchens with one week’s worth of food. They will discover surprising similarities and differences in how each family produces, shops for, and prepares their food. Some foods show up on almost every family’s menu, while others are unique.
The exhibition provides a thought-provoking analysis of worldwide food consumption in a way that is entertaining and accessible. The 40 color photographs, depicting everything from American drive-thru fast food restaurants to open-air kitchens in Mali, document the sharp contrasts and universal aspects of this essential human pursuit.
Paintings, sketches and sculptures from Charles M. Russell, one of the most popular and influential American wildlife artists of his time, are on display at the Sam Noble Museum. Organized by the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming in collaboration with the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West, University of Oklahoma, this exhibit was curated by B. Byron Price, Director, Charles M. Russell Center and University of Oklahoma Press. Exhibit sponsored by Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores.
The Sam Noble Museum hosts the temporary photographic exhibit Formed in Stone: The Natural Beauty of Fossils featuring an array of dazzling geometric designs on fossils dating from 80 to 455 million years old. The exhibit includes digital photographs magnified up to 60 times to reveal the hidden surface of each fossilized microorganism. Accompanying the image gallery are 12 diverse physical specimens, eight of which are from Oklahoma.
The fossils in this exhibit belong to the museum’s invertebrate paleontology collection, which contains around 1 million specimens from across the globe. This collection represents the combined efforts of paleontologists from the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the University of Oklahoma School of Geology and Geophysics.
Well-known endangered species like bald eagles and sea turtles are showcased alongside more unfamiliar species including the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly and the Higgins eye mussel. In addition to highlighting those species most in danger, National Geographic’s RARE also celebrates endangered species making a comeback including the red wolf and the American alligator, which have both rebounded from the verge of extinction.
The exhibition is based on Joel Sartore’s book by the same title, which, like the exhibition, organizes the featured species by number of living populations remaining. The project’s message was made particularly poignant when one of the featured animals, the Columbian Basin pygmy rabbit, went extinct while the book was being produced. The exhibition also examines the history, purpose and effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Exhibit sponsored by Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores. and a grant from the Norman Arts Council.
Painting provides the animals with new sights, smells and textures that enrich their lives. Their art also spreads a message of hope for animals in Oklahoma and around the world. Periodically, the painted canvases are sold so that the proceeds can be donated to designated animal conservation projects.
2401 Chautauqua Ave.
Norman, OK 73072-7029