Permanent Exhibit

Our permanent gallery showcases the many faces of local history….

Experience the growth and development of Bartlesville and the surrounding areas through historical photographs, documents, and artifacts.

Learn about Bartlesville, Cooweescoowee District, Indian Territory; the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 – the first commercial oil well in Oklahoma, and the many other people, places, and events that shaped this turn-of-the-century settlement on the Caney River into a modern, cosmopolitan community.

The facility currently housing the Bartlesville Area History Museum has a long history of its own. The building started as the Hotel Maire in 1913 and became the Burlingame Hotel in 1928. The Phillips Petroleum Company bought the building in 1970, and in the 1990s the building became home to the City of Bartlesville and the Bartlesville Area History Museum.

The stories and lives of pioneer leaders Nelson Franklin Carr served in the 6th Kansas Calvary during the Civil War, as had Jacob Bartles. Because he was married to Sarah Rogers, a Cherokee, Carr was allowed to move to move to Indian Territory in 1867. They established the first business, a trading post, and later a mill in what became Bartlesville.

The couple also built the first school and hired Mellie Smith from Kansas to instruct 18 children.

The Museum also houses the Nelson Carr One Room School where local 3rd and 4th graders come and experience what school was like in the year 1910. For more information about attending the school, please visit the “Education” link at the top of this page.

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Oil changed everything! From finding an oily film on a creek, to the Foster Blanket Lease in Osage County, oil prospectors consumed the area destined to be northeast Oklahoma. Oilmen made their fortunes here but not without trials and hard work. Frank and his brother L.E. Phillips had enough money for one more oilwell before returning to Iowa admitting defeat. Lady luck was on their side when the Anna Anderson erupted and began their fortune. In 2016, the staff of the Bartlesville Area History Museum collaborated with others in the community to produce “The City That Oil Built.” The twelve-minute oil video brings to light the history of oil in Washington and Osage Counties of Oklahoma. Martha Jane (Phillips) Starr was the daughter of Mr. L.E. Phillips, brother of famed oil legend Frank Phillips. This video was made possible through the funding provided by the Martha Jane (Phillips) Starr Field of Interest Fund under the direction of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and the Bartlesville Area History Museum Trust Authority. Created and produced by PioneerDream, Inc. You may watch online here.

The history of Native Americans is an important aspect of the museum’s exhibits. The local Native American tribes played a vital role in the development of the Bartlesville area as many of the area’s prominent citizens and business leaders came from Native American backgrounds. The Cherokee, Delaware, and Osage tribes are all represented in the collections of the Bartlesville Area History Museum.

Meet photographer Frank Griggs. Mr. Griggs moved to the Bartlesville area in 1908 and immediately began recording early day area life with his camera. He took over 200,000 photographs of Bartlesville throughout his lifetime. These photographs form the basis of a visual record of the growth and development of the Bartlesville area. The museum houses most of Mr. Griggs’ photographs and equipment.