Jessica Heck, 2018
Museum Registrar, Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
I've been working as the museum registrar at Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve in Oklahoma since July 2018. I've learned that describing Woolaroc is complicated because this place is nothing like any museum I've been in before!
Woolaroc was originally the Frank Phillips Ranch, named after oil barren Frank Phillips of Phillips 66 fame. Frank purchased nearly 10,000 acres of land outside of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in the 1920s and built a lodge home on the property. In 1926, Frank built the room that would become the museum to house the Woolaroc airplane and his amazing collection of art and Southwestern artifacts.
The ranch, museum, and lodge home eventually became known collectively as “Woolaroc" – a name chosen to represent the "woods, lakes, and rocks" that make up the property. Since the 1920s, Woolaroc has downsized to encompass 3,700 acres of land. Woolaroc is an active wildlife preserve – herds of bison, longhorns, highland cattle, deer, ostrich, water buffalo, and more wander the grounds and provide guests a unique 2-mile drive from the front gate to the museum. The lodge operates as a historic home and guests can also explore walking trails, a petting barn (complete with baby goats, cows, rabbits, and chickens!), a welcome center, and, of course, the Woolaroc museum. The museum is home to works of art by Frederic Remington, Nicolai Fechin, Frank Tenney Johnson, William R. Leigh, Charles Russell, Joseph Henry Sharp, Thomas Moran, and countless others. In addition, the museum houses Southwestern pottery, Navajo chief blankets, a diamond-inlay saddle from the 101 Ranch, a full-size airplane, a nearly complete collection of Colt firearms, and shrunken heads. Woolaroc truly has something for everyone!
As museum registrar, it is my duty to become intimately familiar with these collections. I operate and update the museum’s collections database and facilitate the housing of museum collections in storage and on display. I’ve also taken on the task of organizing and cataloging the museum’s priceless photograph and archives collection, which is both daunting and immensely gratifying. In addition, I help facilitate our incoming/outgoing loans, as well as the acquisition of new material.
Because the museum staff is very small (I’m one of four), we all have the opportunity to dabble in education, promotion, event planning, curatorial work, preservation, and maintenance. I’m incredibly thankful that my education in the Museum Studies Program at KU helped prepare me for the inevitability of multitasking in the professional museum world!