The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

western history museum

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, America’s premier institution for the study of Western art and culture, preserves and exhibits an internationally renowned collection of art and artifacts while sponsoring dynamic educational programs. Its mission is to honor the enduring legacy of America’s western heritage and to inspire people everywhere to explore our nation’s shared cultural past.

The museum traces the development of man’s culture in the New World through its displays and collections that include Native American baskets, beads, blankets and cultural art; woolaroc dinosaur fossils; historical displays and one of the best collections of Colt firearms; and a large collection of rare books, archival photographs and audio recordings. It also has one of the world’s most outstanding collections of Western art and artifacts including a unique display of cowboy memorabilia that features items worn by Western heroes like Buffalo Bill Cody.

In addition to housing some of the most important anthropological and ethnographic collections in the world, the museum is a major center for scholarly research. Its archives are home to many significant manuscripts, oral histories and historic newspapers from the frontier. The scholarly works in its collections span many fields and disciplines. Researchers have consulted these resources for more than 100 years to discover the story of humankind’s expansion into the West.

Visitors to the museum can step back in time in a life-size Pioneer Town and see one of the world’s finest collections of Western art. They can also learn about the 2,000 mile trek made by thousands of families who left their homes in 1841, 1860 and 1869 to set out for California. Some of those pioneers came for land, others were seeking gold and still others sought adventure.

The museum is a member of the American Alliance of Museums and maintains a nationally recognized research library. The library holds over 500,000 books, periodicals, maps, microfilms and archival documents, as well as many rare and valuable manuscripts. It is available to students, scholars and the general public for research purposes. The Museum’s collection also includes a wide range of sound and video materials including more than 2,500 cassette tapes, vinyl records and compact discs. Its sound recordings reflect Native American songs and folklore, interviews with Oklahoma pioneers and historical figures, classical music and traditional Western folklore. It also contains numerous sound and visual records of the history of the University of Oklahoma. The Museum’s Distinguished Scholars program provides fellowship opportunities for advanced graduate students and faculty to use its collections. The Masterson Fellowship, endowed by Conrad and Ellen Masterson of Cee Vee, Texas, helps support students with research in the museum’s collections for up to three months. The Jack Haley Fellowship, funded by the Association of Western History Collections Endowment, is open to students in OU’s Department of History.

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