Visit a Western History Museum

western history museum

Whether you’re a fan of Western art or want to get a taste of the frontier life, a trip to a western history museum will give you a colorful glimpse into cowboy culture and the people who shaped it. Step back in time at a recreated Old West town or peruse memorabilia from the days when singing cowboys ruled the silver screen. From world-class metropolitan museums to historic homesteads of famous ranchers, you’ll find a variety of Western history museum options throughout Oklahoma and beyond.

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City is America’s premier institution of Western history, art and culture. The Museum collects, preserves and exhibits an internationally renowned collection of Western art and artifacts and provides dynamic educational programs. Founded in 1955, the Museum has evolved over half a century from a Hall of Fame to a world-class museum that represents the full range of Western culture.

Its Western and American art collections feature a wide array of styles and periods, from classics like Remington and Charles M. Russell to contemporary works of art that capture the Western way of life. Other exhibition galleries focus on rodeos, Native American culture, Victorian firearms and frontier military. The Museum also houses a turn-of-the-century town and interactive history galleries.

Other notable western history museum include the Black American Museum in Denver, the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper and the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado. The former showcases the story of the African American “back to the land” movement that started with entrepreneur O.T. Jackson’s purchase of land in what became Dearfield, an all-African American agricultural colony located on Highway 34 ninety miles north of Denver. Exhibits feature the work of black cowboys, miners, farmers and all of the various professions necessary to support an entire western community.

The Colorado Railroad Museum is one of the most popular Western history museum because it offers hands-on interactive experiences. The train club members of Scottsdale’s McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park collaborated with the museum to create an exhibition that allows visitors to operate period HO and G scale trains on their own. This tactile and immersive exhibition is one of the best in the country. The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, a western history museum in Casper, Wyoming, has an exhibition called “The Battle of Red Buttes,” which opened in July and centers on the 1865 fight that pitted the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Lakota tribes against the U.S. Cavalry. It commemorates the dead, including Lt. Caspar Collins of the 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, who died in the battle.

The Museum’s extensive manuscript collections contain thousands of original documents, diaries and journals relating to the history of the Trans-Mississippi West and its Native American populations. In addition to these textual materials, the Museum has a significant collection of rare maps and retablos along with a remarkable array of photographs by the acclaimed photographer Edward S. Curtis. The Museum’s research fellowship program, sponsored by Conrad and Ellen Masterson of Cee Vee, provides opportunities for graduate students to conduct scholarly research on the Museum’s holdings.

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