The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

An internationally renowned collection of Western art and artifacts combined with dynamic educational programs define the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum as America’s premier institution of Western history, culture and art. Founded in 1955, the museum has developed into an essential repository of Western art and a world leader in preserving and interpreting the enduring legacy of the American West.

The museum is a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and share the rich history of the American West through exhibitions, education, and public events. It is a center for research and scholarship on the art, literature, film, music and history of the West, while also serving as an inspiration for contemporary artists.

In its original incarnation, the Buffalo Bill Museum focuses on the life of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917), who was a guide, scout, frontiersman, showman, actor, entrepreneur, town founder and American icon. The Museum illustrates his storied career with exhibits of Wild West shows, Indian artifacts and firearms.

Located in Denver, Colorado, the Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum began as an art gallery in Caster Gymnasium at New Mexico Junior College in 1965. The Museum grew to outgrow its space, and in 2005 the institution moved to a newly built facility that features both the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum.

Today, the Museum features a turn-of-the-century town and galleries that explore a range of topics related to the Western experience. Its collections of classic Western art, including works by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, as well as contemporary Western art, are on display. Exhibits of rodeo equipment, Victorian firearms, frontier military and Western performers are also featured. The Museum is also home to a large collection of Native American art and objects, including beadwork.

In addition to its Western art collections, the Museum houses a specialized research library, which includes extensive manuscript materials on Oklahoma and the Western region. The library’s collections cover a variety of topics, from diaries and journals to literary manuscripts, personal and business records, and maps. Manuscripts on Oklahoma’s five tribal groups, the Western expansion and settlement, and businesses that served the Trans-Mississippi West are among the most prominent holdings.

The Museum has also amassed a remarkable collection of historic photographs, including the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection on Buffalo Soldiers, a segregated unit that served in the Army during the Plains Indian Wars period after the Civil War. The Museum’s archives also include the famous Edward S. Curtis photographs of Native Americans in their natural environment.

Across the United States, museums are honoring the western way of life through innovative exhibits and events that celebrate Western heritage. Many of these best western museums are dedicated to ensuring the region’s legacy by educating future generations about its cultural contributions, including cowboys and other Western icons. They are also working to highlight a more inclusive Western history that incorporates the region’s diverse cultures.

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