The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City is the country’s premier museum dedicated to preserving, interpreting and promoting the art and culture of the American West. Founded in 1955, it is home to an internationally renowned collection of Western art and artifacts as well as dynamic educational programs that inspire the enduring legacy of the American West.

The museum features several galleries that explore the different aspects of the West’s history. The Hall of the American West includes archaeological artifacts that reflect the history of the region, as well as a collection of Western art. The Hall of Mexican and Central America houses artifacts from a range of pre-Columbian civilizations that once existed across Mesoamerica, including the Olmec, Zapotec, and Aztec.

A large and varied collection of firearms is on display at the museum, as are a number of reenactment weapons used in various eras of the West’s development. The museum also has a gallery dedicated to the art of the American West, with works by artists such as Charles M. Russell, Thomas Moran, Alfred Bierstadt, and Frederic Remington. A collection of costumes and props used by film cowboys like John Wayne is featured in a separate gallery.

The Museum of the Western Prairie chronicles the rich and complex story of southwest Oklahoma. From geologic uplifts and ancient seas to irrigated farming and Altus Air Force Base, the museum examines the people who have helped shape the area’s past. The museum offers contemporary and historical exhibitions, intellectual forums, children’s programs, the Native Voices at Autry performing arts series, and year-round cultural events.

The library at the Museum of the Western Prairie is a major resource for research on the history of the Southwest and the American West. It houses more than eighty thousand volumes, making it one of the leading special collections of published Western Americana in the world. The collection includes a large general collection known as the Frank Phillips Library, plus smaller collections and private libraries that focus on specific topics.

The manuscript collections at the Museum of the Western Prairie include diaries and journals, personal and official correspondence, literary manuscripts, scrapbooks, and business records. In addition to the manuscripts, the collection includes thousands of photographs and more than two million glass plate negatives and prints. A significant number of these are available online through the museum’s digitized collection. Other notable collections include the photographic archives, oral history interviews, and a broad collection of audio recordings. The collections are available for scholarly use and the staff is available to provide training for researchers.

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