Cody Yellowstone: Museum Central
CODY, Wyo., March 9, 2020 – With 20 museums, Northwestern Wyoming’s Park County, known as Cody Yellowstone, offers far more than museums per capita
than New York City and the U.S. as a whole, with one museum for each 1,467 residents.*
The museums in the county range from the transcendent, like the Smithsonian-affiliated Whitney Western Art Museum to the poignant, such as Heart Mountain WWII Interpretive Center, with artifacts and exhibits from the three-year-period when 14,000 Japanese-Americans were confined there. Some, like Old Trail Town/Museum of the West, take a deep dive into the region’s rich history. And several, such as the educational Museum of the National Park Ranger, are a pure delight for curious travelers who are lifelong learners.
With a land mass of more than 6,967 square miles, this massive county includes the frontier towns of Cody, Meeteetse and Powell as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park. Not everything in this popular destination is large, however. The population of Park County is just 29,353, with roughly a third of Park County residents in the town of Cody, and the rest occupying the many ranches and remote homes scattered throughout the county.
Why on Earth would such a remote, sparsely populated region of the American West be home to so many museums? Because each tells a different part of the story, and in this breathtakingly beautiful, history-rich part of the country, there are countless stories to tell.
“This is a big land that has drawn visionaries like Cody town founder Buffalo Bill Cody and artists like Thomas Moran, who were inspired by its natural resources and sheer beauty and compelled to do something big,” said Claudia Wade, director of the Park County Travel Council, the marketing arm of the region known as Cody Yellowstone. “Museums are a way to tell as well as show our many stories to our visitors.”
Here are the 20 museums that tell the many stories of Cody Yellowstone.
- Albright Visitor Center – Located in Mammoth Hot Springs in the northern region of Yellowstone National Park, this historic structure was built by the United States Army in 1909 as bachelor officers’ quarters for the cavalry troops who protected the park before the 1916 establishment of the National Park Service. Exhibits provide a general orientation to the park’s cultural and natural resources.
- Bank Museum – Located in Meeteetse, the Bank Museum displays an array of authentic artifacts including original bank vault and safes, teller’s cage, an early telephone switchboard, dictaphones and photographs.
- Buffalo Bill Dam and Visitor Center – Completed in 1910, the Buffalo Bill Dam was once the tallest concrete dam in the world. The Visitor Center features educational exhibits about the construction and impact of the dam.
- Buffalo Bill Museum – This is the museum that started it all. Founded shortly after Buffalo Bill Cody’s 1917 death to honor his legacy. Through innovative
exhibits, the museum tells the story of the life and times of Cody as a guide, scout, frontiersman, showman, actor, entrepreneur and American legend. The Buffalo Bill Museum is one of five museums under the roof of the acclaimed Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
- By Western Hands – This innovative museum, new in 2019, was years in the planning. A non-profit artisan guild, By Western Hands focuses on Western design and functional art with exhibits that showcase how the region became the birthplace of Western design and how its artists continue to honor that heritage through their creations.
- Canyon Visitor Education Center – This modern facility captures the imaginations of visitors with exhibits featuring Yellowstone’s supervolcano as well as geysers, hot springs and other geothermal features that can be found throughout the park. Curious visitors will especially appreciation the interactive exhibits and displays of real-time scientific data about the park.
- Charles Belden Museum of Western Photography – One of three museums that comprise The Meeteetse Museums, the Charles Belden Museum of Western Photography includes Belden photographs of the Pitchfork Ranch, “Little Wahb”, one of the largest grizzlies ever taken in the Yellowstone ecosystem, Mike
Crocker’s “Grand Slam” of North American Wild Sheep, antique sheep wagons and the Endangered Black-Footed Ferret exhibit.
- Cody Dug Up Gun Museum – This privately operated museum displays more than 1,000 relics and guns from a variety of turbulent and historically significant periods of history including WW II, the Gold Rush and the Westward expansion.
- Cody Firearms Museum – This Center of the West museum houses the most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world. The heart of the museum is the Winchester Arms Collection. The museum was reinstalled and reopened last year.
- Cody Heritage Museum – Located in downtown Cody, this new museum explores the heritage of Cody with displays showcasing ranching, railroads, rodeo and more.
- Cody Mural and Museum – The Grigware mural in the LDS church rotunda, depicts scenes from the colonization of the West and settling of the Big Horn Basin. The recently renovated museum features new interactive exhibits and memorabilia displays.
- Draper Natural History Museum – Another Center of the West museum, the family-friendly Draper Natural History Museum highlights the sights, sounds and even the smells of Yellowstone National Park’s wildlife and plants. The innovative museum invites visitors to complete a scavenger hunt through the park’s four different ecosystems.
- Heart Mountain WW II Interpretive Center – This award-winning museum opened in 2011 to tell the stories through photographs, artifacts, oral histories and interactive exhibits of the 14,000 Japanese Americans who were confined at the Heart Mountain WWII Japanese American Confinement site.
- Homesteader Museum – Located in Powell, the Homesteader Museum presents decades of local homesteading, community development and family stories through artifacts, historic buildings and photographs.
- Meeteetse Museum – This museum features an array of permanent exhibits including one that explores the history of the Black-Footed Ferret, a species that was thought to be extinct until one was spotted in Meeteetse in 1981, prompting a successful push to repopulate the species. There are also rotating exhibits and a room devoted to the collection of oral history.
- Museum of the National Park Ranger – It is fitting that the world’s first national park offers a museum that highlights the lives and contributions of national park rangers. Located near the Norris Geyser Basin, the historic structure was built in 1886 as a station for the soldiers who patrolled the park before the Park Service was established. It also was used as a ranger station and residence until the 1959 Hebden Lake earthquake damaged its structure. The restored museum is staffed by retired rangers, and there are displays highlighting the history of the National Park Service and the rangers who have protected the parks.
- Norris Geyser Basin Museum – Built in 1930 when touring the park by private automobile was preferred over the guided tours in touring vehicles so that
visitors could educate themselves about the park. Designated a National Historic Landmark, like many buildings in the park, this museum includes exhibits about the park’s hydrothermal features as well as general park information.
- Old Trail Town & Museum of the West – This imaginative museum tells the story of the West with 26 authentic frontier buildings moved from nearby regions and displayed to depict a frontier town. As visitors wander the boardwalks they will find an school building, general store and the Hole in the Wall Cabin used by Butch Cassidy and his Hole in the Wall Gang.
- Plains Indians Museum – Another Center of the West museum, the Plains Indians Museum explores the cultures, histories and living traditions of Plains Indians. The museum houses one of the largest collections of Native American art and artifacts in the country.
- Whitney Western Art Museum – This Smithsonian-affiliated museum in the Center of the West is frequently named one of the best Western art museums in the country. Visitors will find works from artists such as Charlie Russell, Frederic Remington, Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt.
*The Institute of Museum and Library Services estimates 35,000 museums in the U.S. The United States population is 327.17 million. NY.com estimates 83 museums in the five boroughs. NYC population is 8.54 million.
Home of the Great American Adventure, Cody Yellowstone is comprised of the northwestern Wyoming towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park. The region is known for rodeos, authentic guest and dude ranches, world-class museums and recreational adventures that reflect the adventurous spirit of the visionaries and explorers who brought the remote region to the world’s attention.
Mesereau Travel Public Relations