The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

western history museum

Founded in 1955, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is a world-class institution that collects and displays art, history and culture to educate people about the American West. It is home to a superb collection of classic and contemporary Western art, as well as historic rodeo memorabilia, Victorian firearms, frontier military objects and an extensive collection of Native American artifacts. The Museum also has an expansive research library and a comprehensive collection of historical photographs and books. Visitors are invited to step back in time at the full-scale turn-of-the-century Western town of Prosperity Junction and to visit its interactive history galleries on topics such as the American cowboy, rodeos, Native American cultures, Victorian firearms and frontier military.

The Museum also houses a unique collection of natural history exhibits, including the 122-foot-long Titanosaur dinosaur skeleton and a Saurasaurus pelvis, vertebra and femur fossil. The Museum also holds one of the most important collections of Pre-Columbian art in the country, and is an international leader in the exhibition of art from the Americas. The Museum is undergoing a major renovation project to improve the facility’s accessibility and visitor experience.

From geologic uplifts and ancient seas to irrigated agriculture and Altus Air Force Base, the Museum of the Western Prairie chronicles the story of southwest Oklahoma from its distant past through today. The low granite peaks of the Wichita Mountains that once dominated the landscape serve as a link to every era in the region’s history.

Explore the Museum’s collections, from the oldest pieces—such as arrowheads and retablos—to modern works of art, sculpture, and Western history. The Museum features a wide range of interdisciplinary exhibits and is a leader in educating students about the Western experience through a variety of programs, such as its annual summer internship program.

In addition to the main building, the Museum has several specialized wings. These include the Robert Lehman Wing, which contains Old Masters paintings and an extraordinary collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art; the Sackler Wing, which features a Temple of Dendur, as well as the arts of Africa, Oceania, and Asia; the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, displaying the finest collection of Western art in the United States; and the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing, with modern and contemporary art from around the world.

The Museum of the Western Prairie is proud to be part of the University of New Mexico system and serves a multi-regional audience that includes more than 500,000 visitors each year. The Museum is a registered non-profit, and its mission is to educate the public about the Western heritage and history through exhibitions, a permanent collection, archival resources, research and publications. The Museum is funded primarily by private contributions. In addition, the Museum receives public funds from the State of New Mexico and federal sources. It has been designated a Smithsonian Institution since 1975. It is governed by a Board of Trustees, and its collections are administered by the Museum’s staff.

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