The Museum of the Red River opened in 1975 with help from Quintus and Mary Herron. During the 70s, it focused on preserving the cultural prehistory of the region and conducting archaeological field schools—some under government contract. However, during the 80s, it ceased field operations and returned all materials recovered under government auspices to the respective agencies. It revised its mission and broadened its collections to include art and archaeology from North, Central, and South America.
The Museum has expanded several times since it first opened. In 1999, it grew from 3,000 square feet to over 17,000 square feet to accommodate larger exhibits and a growing collection. It also started to acquire representative material from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Additional space was added in 2005 to house the cast of Acrocanthosaurus atokensis. (The original fossils were found less than twenty miles from the Museum). In 2009, the Museum opened the Mary H. Herron Community Conference Center. The Center currently serves as a space for collections-based programs and items from cultures outside the Americas. Beginning in 2016, the Museum began extensive renovations to its galleries, lobby and collections storage. After construction is complete, the Museum will be 44,000 square feet.
Today, the Museum is the largest exhibiting facility of its kind within a 150-mile radius. It operates as a partnership between the City of Idabel's Herron Foundation, Inc. and Idabel Museum Society, Inc. (IMSI). It receives no direct government funding and relies on the support of individuals and organizations from around the world. It works with other art and cultural agencies to provide activities and events to the public.
The Museum has over 30,000 cultural objects from six different continents. The collection primarily consists of ethnographic art from prehistoric to contemporary times. The bulk of its collection is drawn from native American groups, with comparative objects from Africa and Asia. However, it also houses hundreds of minerals and fossils—including a cast of Acrocanthosaurus atokensis.
The collection continues to grow with several hundred acquisitions each year. The majority come through donation, with contributors located across the country. They recognize the value of making cultural objects available to audiences who are otherwise deprived of opportunities to appreciate and learn from fine examples of craftsmanship from around the world.
Education and Engagement
The Museum's exhibition program includes 6-8 changing displays annually, with the majority using objects drawn from its collections. It also installs eight off-site exhibits in locations throughout Southeastern Oklahoma.
The Museum offers a range of educational opportunities—tours, workshops, children's programs, and seminars—to complement its exhibits. It's also home to the the Holland and Sallie Webb Learning Center, which serves as an interactive space for children and families. Access to its public reference and research libraries of over of 6,000 volumes is also available. For more information about guided tours, field trips, accessing the libraries or other educational opportunities, call the Museum at (580) 286-3616.