Science Museum Oklahoma History

A lot has happened since the museum was founded way back in 1958. The museum itself has evolved, the world's understanding of science has grown in leaps and bounds, even our name has changed. The following is a glimpse of our past, as well as a short biography about our founder, John Elson Kirkpatrick.

  • December 16, 1958 
  • Oklahoma Science and Arts Foundation is established and housed at State Fairgrounds. Included are planetarium, museum and science department. 
  • September, 1962
  • New OSAF building completed, including a permanent dome for the newly named Kirkpatrick Planetarium, provided by the John E. Kirkpatrick family.
  • June 13, 1976 
  • Oklahoma Science & Arts Foundation's production of "Feather Moon" opens.
  • August 11, 1976
  • Groundbreaking for the new Kirkpatrick Center takes place at 2100 NE 52nd Street in Oklahoma City. 
  • October 29, 1976 
  • Bibliomania opens to the public.
  • December 2, 1976 
  • Museum explores the concept of 'hands-on' learning.
  • March 31, 1977 
  • Kinetic Art on exhibit.
  • February 13, 1978 
  • Official opening & dedication of the Kirkpatrick Center on the site of the current location of Science Museum Oklahoma.
  • April 21, 1980 
  • State aviation history unveiled in Grand Opening of the Oklahoma Air and Space Museum. 
  • July 5, 1981 
  • Installation of experimental solar photovoltaic energy system.
  • March 24, 1982 
  • Kirkpatrick Center recognized as Oklahoma City's window to the world.
  • January 25, 1983 
  • Kirkpatrick Center expansion.
  • September 15, 1987 
  • Kirkpatrick Center attendance rises 15%.
  • February 1, 1988 
  • Kirkpatrick Center becomes a tourist attraction.
  • 1996
  • Kirkpatrick Center, Oklahoma Air and Space Museum and Science Museum Oklahoma merge to become Kirkpatrick Science and Air Museum at Omniplex.
  • January 16, 2000
  • Seven-story giant screen Dome Theater opens, the state's first large-format, dome-screen theater.
  • 2003
  • Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit sets museum attendance records with over 217,000 visitors during its seven-month run.
  • 2004
  • Museum's board of trustees adopts a new mission statement: We enrich people's lives by revealing the wonder and relevance of science.
  • November 7, 2007
  • Continuing to promote science literacy with the development of new exhibits and programs, offering visitors the chance to discover the relevance of science in their everyday lives, board of trustees officially adopts a new name: Science Museum Oklahoma.
  • January 22, 2013
  • Science Museum Oklahoma announces a $12 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation towards capital campaign. Museum unveils two phase master plan to create new exhibit for families with young children, new main entrance and lobby and exterior improvements. 
our founder

John Elson Kirkpatrick

1908 - 2006

Admiral John Kirkpatrick was born in Oklahoma City in February 1908 and graduated from the Oklahoma City Public Schools before attending West Point, Marion Institute and, in 1931, graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. In 1932, Kirkpatrick married Eleanor Blake of Mangum.

During World War II, Kirkpatrick served 54 months at sea as a gunnery officer aboard the USS North Carolina and later served on the USS Alaska and the USS Oklahoma City. After the war, Kirkpatrick entered the oil business and in 1950 founded the Kirkpatrick Oil Company.

Prominent civic leaders in Oklahoma City since the 1940s, the Kirkpatricks have given much to the communities and state of Oklahoma through their generosity and philanthropy, including multiple arts and education organizations. Their works are continued today through the Kirkpatrick Foundation.

Science Museum Oklahoma was made possible largely through the support and generosity of the Kirkpatrick family.