The Museum of the Red River was established in 1975 by Quintus and Mary Herron, who provided the initial funding and collections. During its formative years, the Museum focused on preserving the cultural prehistory of the region and conducting archaeological field schools (some under government contract). During the 1980s, it ceased field operations and returned all materials recovered under government auspices to the respective agencies. It revised its mission and began to collect the art and archaeology of North, Central and South America.
Since the mid-80s, the Museum has expanded multiple times. In 1999, it grew from 3,000 square feet to over 17,000 square feet to accommodate larger exhibits and a growing collection of art and archaeology. It also started to acquire representative material from Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and other regions. In 2005, a new exhibit space for the reconstructed skeleton of Acrocanthosaurus atokensis was added. The Museum opened the Mary H. Herron Community Conference Center in 2009 in order to provide a space collections-based programs and an area to showcase items from cultures outside the Americas. Most recently, the Museum began extensive renovations on its galleries, lobby and collections storage.
Today, the Museum is the largest exhibiting facility of its kind within in a 150-mile radius. It operates as a partnership between the City of Idabel's Herron Foundation, Inc. and the Idabel Museum Society, Inc. (IMSI). It receives no 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.
Currently, the Museum has 30,000 objects from six different continents in addition to the reconstructed skeleton of Acrocanthosaurus atokensis. Select pieces from collections are highlighted in temporary exhibits in the Mary Bratton Curtis Gallery and the Nathaniel and Lana Grey Gallery six to eight times a year. Others are showcased in semi-permanent exhibits in the Lifeways Gallery and the Gregory Perino Archaeological Study Area. It also has eight off-site exhibits in select locations throughout Southeastern Oklahoma.
Education and Engagement
The Museum of the Red River provides a range of educational opportunities—tours, workshops and so forth—to complement its exhibits. It also offers ongoing children’s programs and features a permanent educational space for children in the Sallie and Holland Web Learning Center. Additionally, the Museum houses a Research Library of 6,000 volumes that can be accessed on a limited basis. For more information about guided tours, field trips or other educational opportunities, call the Museum at (580) 286-3616.