The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City

Founded in 1955, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is Oklahoma City’s premier institution of Western history and culture. The museum holds more than 28,000 artworks and artifacts and features a renowned collection of classic and contemporary Western art, including works by Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt. In addition, visitors will find the world’s largest collection of American rodeo memorabilia and 19th century saddlery. The museum also houses a historic railroad depot and a working ranch with artisan demonstrations, country and Western dancing, cattle drives and music.

Among the museum’s many historic galleries are the American Cowboy Gallery, which looks at the history and traditions of the working cowboy; the Native American Gallery, which examines how Western tribes embellished everyday objects with beads and other items; the Museum of the Frontier West Gallery, which displays some of the more than 4,500 artifacts that once belonged to the Western artist Joe Grandee; the Weitzenhoffer Gallery of Fine Western Firearms, featuring firearms by such makers as Colt, Remington and Smith & Wesson; and the Western Film Gallery. The museum also hosts numerous thematic exhibitions, such as “Acts of Faith: Religion and the American West,” which explores how religion helped shape American expansion in the West, and “Human Nature,” which uses art, photography and other media to highlight four key California stories of Salmon, Forest, Desert and Plants.

The museum has a strong education outreach program and is known for its outstanding public programs. Its educational materials are used by teachers across the nation to help students learn about the West and its diverse cultures, as well as about the role of the arts in interpreting history. The museum also provides training in teaching about the West and its culture, with an emphasis on best practices for teaching Western history to racial and culturally diverse students.

Located in a historic house, the museum is a place where visitors can discover the stories of the American West, from its natural beauty to the legends of Buffalo Bill Cody and other outlaws. Visitors can learn about pioneer tools and clothing, visit a reconstructed outlaw hideout and see a real-life jail cell in an exhibit that focuses on the life of Teller County’s most famous inmates. The museum also has a collection of more than 350 works by renowned Western artist A.R. Mitchell, as well as Native American and Spanish folk art. Changing exhibits and special events are the hallmark of the museum. Among the most recent, “Spirit of the Wild West,” celebrates a period of commercial lithography that reflected popular images of the West and its characters. It also showcases the interplay between religion and American expansion in the 19th century and presents a more complicated picture of how religion became an important part of Western culture.

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