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National Study Recognizes Philbrook

Beloved Museum Deemed "Magnetic"

MAY 11, 2013 (Tulsa, Okla.) A three-year study in partnership with the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) led independent researchers Anne Bergeron and Beth Tuttle to ultimately identify six model organizations, including Philbrook Museum of Art located in Tulsa, Okla. These important findings culminate in the book, Magnetic: The Art and Science of Engagement, scheduled to release late May 2013.

Using 18 key indicators of success, Bergeron and Tuttle engaged in a blind analysis of a decade’s worth of quantitative performance metrics within a sample of 200 organizations from the American Alliance of Museums. They then examined an additional 6,000 institutions via the National Center for Comparable Statistics. The researchers then invited 26 museums to participate in qualitative evaluations before ultimately visiting 10 institutions and conducting in-person interviews with staff, trustees, stakeholders, and community leaders.

Upon review of the findings, AAM fast-tracked publication of a book meant to offer insight for any business seeking to create a more vital, relevant and connected organization. The book profiles six “magnetic” organizations, including Philbrook, which demonstrate exceptional ability to attract the human, social, and financial capital necessary to thrive rather than just survive, especially amidst the recession that began in 2008.

“We had no idea when sifting through the data of over 6,000 institutions which organizations would emerge at the top,” remarked Bergeron, as she reflected on the initial phase of research. “I had the distinct pleasure of conducting the site visit to Philbrook. The museum offers an excellent example to its peers and even other nonprofits and businesses across the country on how to invest in personal relationships that ultimately drive fiscal success.”

Since arriving in 2007, Director Rand Suffolk asked Philbrook to dramatically change its focus from “who we are” to “what we do.” Subsequently, staff and trustees worked together to create a more compelling, relevant, and engaged museum rooted in the life and direction of Tulsa. They retooled the education department, reallocated the budget, and committed themselves to becoming essential within the community. Philbrook developed new programs like free Second Saturdays and MyMuseum, as well as Third Thursdays, all aimed at broad-based audience development.

The innovation resonated with visitors as reflected in results including a 50% increase in attendance fueled by a 149% increase in educational program attendance, as well as a marked increase in minority participation. In addition to heightened involvement, the above changes have likewise attracted investment from the public Philbrook serves.  During the same period membership jumped 22%, further demonstrating Philbrook’s capacity to generate commitment amid the worst economic conditions in decades.

“The core values of growth, inclusivity, and collaboration have defined our progress during the past six years,” remarked Suffolk. “We have combined these values with a commitment to presenting the finest examples of artistic achievement available to leverage change, measure progress, and secure financial sustainability.”

Besides Philbrook, the book features the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh; the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Va.; Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, Fishers, Ind.; The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pa; and the Natural Science Center of Greensboro, N.C. (now the Greensboro Science Center). The study found that these museums have become much more than simply keepers of cultural heritage or places of informal learning – they have also become vital players in the social, civic, and economic vibrancy of their communities.

“Our involvement in this project demonstrates how the power of local involvement and investment can create something of national significance,” reflected Suffolk, when asked about what this recognition means to Philbrook, known locally as “Tulsa’s Crown Jewel.”

Magnetic: the Art and Science of Engagement, published by The AAM press, is available through the American Alliance of Museums Bookstore.


A general art museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Philbrook has featured world-class art, immaculate gardens, and engaging educational programming since opening in 1939. Today, Philbrook includes two campuses: a 23-acre estate, which includes an historic home and modern museum complex in Midtown Tulsa as well as a 2-story modern gallery space in Downtown Tulsa, scheduled to open in June 2013.

For additional information, including current exhibitions, upcoming programs, hours and admission, visit


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Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Okla.

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Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Okla.

The main Philbrook campus includes a historic home and modern museum complex set on 23 pristine acres in Midtown Tulsa.

Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Okla.

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Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Okla.

Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Okla.

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Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Okla.