Go Back in Time with the Sam Noble Museum

Norman Oklahoma is full of history and natural wonders, and one of the highlights is the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History. This cherished destination is renowned for being among the premier university-affiliated museums in the United States, and it’s one of our favorite places to visit in the city. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the museum during your Norman OK getaway.

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exterior of Sam Noble Museum
photo via Ken Wolter / Shutterstock

Getting to Know the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History

At the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, visitors are treated to a glimpse of prehistoric giants, detailed dioramas that celebrate Oklahoma’s natural diversity, and exhibits that trace the human journey in the Sooner state.

Located at the University of Oklahoma, the museum is a hub for research and education with over 10 million objects across 12 collections — archaeology, ethnology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate paleontology, mammology, and more.

Curators — including OU professors — conduct global research and teach, while students engage in hands-on studies. The museum prioritizes object care and legal oversight with a robust Integrated Pest Management program to protect its collections.

The Sam Noble Museum’s captivating blend of history and natural splendor is a highlight for anyone staying at the Montford Inn or exploring Norman.

The Sam Noble Museum’s Permanent Exhibits

The exhibits at the Sam Noble Museum offer a rich tapestry of dinosaurs, Oklahoma’s biodiversity, and the state’s indigenous and settler history, providing an educational and interactive experience for visitors of all ages.

Orientation Gallery

The Orientation Gallery introduces the museum’s collections and scientific research. Greeted by Sauroposeidon proteles (the world’s tallest dinosaur and an Oklahoma native), guests explore remarkable specimens and learn about the museum’s work. The exhibit sets the stage for a journey through Oklahoma’s past and present, highlighting both prehistoric life and contemporary research.

Merkel Family Foundation Gallery of World Cultures

The Merkel Family Foundation Gallery of World Cultures displays an array of global cultural artifacts from its ethnology collection, spanning ancient Greece and Rome to contemporary Mayan textiles. Exhibits include Japanese Samurai armor, Tibetan bone carvings, Chinese ornaments, and Greek and Roman antiquities, offering a glimpse into the diverse cultural heritage of civilizations past and present.

Noble Drilling Corporation Hall of Natural Wonders

Oklahoma’s rich biodiversity — ranking fourth in the US — is showcased in the Noble Drilling Corporation Hall of Natural Wonders. Immersive dioramas transport visitors to the Ozark highlands, a limestone cave, and the mixed-grass prairie — complete with lifelike sounds and sights, like bison and rattlesnakes. The exhibit extends interactively beyond the dioramas, inviting exploration of unique environments such as Black Mesa.

McCasland Foundation Hall of the People of Oklahoma

The McCasland Foundation Hall of the People of Oklahoma chronicles 30,000 years of Native American history in Oklahoma — from early archaeological findings to contemporary experiences. The gallery features handprints from tribal representatives, the ancient “Cooper Skull,” and immersive displays of Mississippian culture — including full-scale structures and modern artifacts representing daily and ceremonial life.

Siegfried Family Hall of Ancient Life

The Siegfried Family Hall of Ancient Life invites visitors on a 4 billion-year journey through Oklahoma’s prehistory. The exhibit features interactive tools, dioramas, and paleontological displays, including the world’s largest Apatosaurus and a record-breaking Pentaceratops skull. From ancient life forms to Ice Age giants, the gallery vividly brings the distant past to life.

Conoco Oil Pioneers of Oklahoma Plaza

The Conoco Oil Pioneers of Oklahoma Plaza honors the state’s oil pioneers whose determination and innovation shaped Oklahoma’s oil sector. Their legacies are celebrated through this plaza and highlight the significant role of the early oil industry in individual success and societal benefits, echoing the museum’s dedication to Oklahoma’s history.

The Discovery Room & Excavations Museum Store

The Discovery Room is an interactive exhibit area where all ages can engage with museum pieces in an exciting and enjoyable setting. Delve into the contents of the collection drawers, participate in a variety of tabletop challenges, unearth dinosaur fossils, or just marvel at the array of fascinating items on display.

At the Excavations Museum Store, you’ll find a treasure trove of natural history-inspired gifts suitable for all budgets. Our selection includes handcrafted jewelry adorned with precious stones like amber and turquoise — alongside an array of fossils.

Choose from Native American art and pottery, handcrafted global decor, and an extensive range of natural history books covering Oklahoma’s history, ecology, and peoples. For a perfect memento, the store offers museum T-shirts, posters, and souvenirs. Plus, kids will be thrilled with the interactive educational toys, books, and myriad dinosaur-themed activities

Interior view of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
photo via Kit Leong / Shutterstock

Sam Noble Museum of Natural History Events

Whether you just love Oklahoma’s rich history or need an extraordinary event setting, the Sam Noble Museum offers an unparalleled experience. Hosting an event here is a celebration and an immersion into history, providing a backdrop that weaves special moments into the fabric of time.

Imagine sharing your milestones amid the grandeur of life-sized elephant displays or making a show-stopping entrance down a majestic staircase to a crowd of loved ones — these are the unique moments that the Sam Noble Museum makes possible.

TIP: For event guests, the Montford Inn provides luxurious rooms and private cottages, ensuring a relaxing and serene retreat for all following a beautifully executed wedding or corporate event.

Get our free ebook guide to the best things to do in Norman and OKC. The best activities, restaurants, museums, events, views, and much more! Click here to request the guide.

Restaurants Near the Sam Noble Museum

The museum may not have a cafe, but visitors can grab a bite at nearby restaurants in Norman OK. Indulge in authentic, slow-cooked barbecue flavors at Ray’s BBQ — renowned for its tender meats and homemade sauces.

The Garage offers a casual, lively atmosphere with a variety of juicy burgers, beer on tap, and an assortment of arcade games. And, Hideaway Pizza is a beloved pizzeria with a creative menu of specialty pizzas, pastas, and other Italian-inspired dishes in a fun setting.

Meanwhile, Greek House is a go-to spot for traditional Greek cuisine, such as hearty portions of gyros, falafels, and other Mediterranean delights. For an upscale dining experience, Legend’s Restaurant is a Norman staple with a diverse menu featuring American classics and fine wines.

cozy accommodations near Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman OK


Cozy Accommodations Near Sam Noble Museum

Just two miles from the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, Montford Inn is a charming bed and breakfast with a cozy, intimate atmosphere. We make guests feel right at home in our rooms and private cottages, which are thoughtfully appointed with comfort and luxury in mind.

Each morning, Montford Inn prepares and serves a homemade breakfast, crafted with local ingredients whenever possible. It’s a joy to see guests savoring our culinary delights and starting their day with a smile. We strive to create an experience that’s as memorable and unique as the people who walk through our doors.

When you’re ready to book your stay for a Norman OK getaway, check our room and cottage availability.