NORMAN — The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art has undergone a number of changes in the six years since director Ghislain d'Humieres came aboard. But the most obvious is simply that there's more of it.
As the museum's director and chief curator of the University of Oklahoma art museum, d'Humieres oversaw the construction of the 18,000-square-foot Stuart Wing, an expansion that doubled the exhibition space in the museum.
Now, d'Humieres is leaving the university to head up a similar project at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky. That museum is in the midst of a three-year expansion and is expected to reopen in 2016.
Besides just expanding the exhibition space in the OU museum, d'Humieres said the expansion there allowed him a certain amount of flexibility to design exhibitions that might not have been possible before — more dynamic exhibits that bring the museum into the 21st century, he said.
In the past, the OU museum, like many museums around the country, followed a “19th century-ish” model for what a museum should be, he said. Its exhibitions were static — designed for visitors to walk through and enjoy.
Since the expansion, the museum has been able to become more of a teaching tool, he said, partnering with other departments on campus for certain projects.
OU's art museum took a step last year toward becoming more accessible. Last December, the museum announced it would offer free admission every day, thanks to a $60,000 gift from the OU athletic department.
In the past, the museum had offered free admission on Tuesdays and certain weekends. On those days, the museum saw a 50 percent increase in its attendance.
In the six months since the museum began offering free admission, attendance has grown each month. By the end of the year, d'Humieres hopes to see attendance double. Offering free admission allows the museum to be a greater asset not just to OU, but to Norman and the larger Oklahoma City area.
There's no perfect formula for what a 21st century museum should be, d'Humieres said. It depends largely on what the community needs and wants. But a museum should generally be accessible and serve to educate the community, he said.
“It's a combination of a lot of things,” he said.