Home on the range
Founded in 1955, the mission of The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
is to preserve and interpret the heritage of the American West for the enrichment of the public. The museum opened in 1965 at a location atop Persimmon Hill in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
. Today the museum boasts over 200,000 square feet of exhibition/event space.
Visitors may view art from Prix de West Purchase Award Winners as well as works by master artists Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, and Albert Bierstadt. They will see the 18' sculpture by James Earle Fraser entitled The End of the Trail. Also on display is Colorado sculptor Gerald Balciar's 16,000 pound white marble cougar appropriately named Canyon Princess. An exhibit by Albuquerque, New Mexico artist Wilson Hurley entitled Windows to the West contains five awe inspiring western landscapes.
The complex contains Prosperity Junction, a 14,000 square foot circa 1900 cow town. Other major exhibits include the following: American Cowboy Gallery, American Rodeo Gallery, Western Performers Gallery, Native American Gallery, the Silberman Gallery of Native American Art, The Weitzenhoffer Gallery of Fine American Firearms, The Joe Grandee Museum of the Frontier West.
The American Cowboy Gallery
This 8,000 square foot exhibit traces the heritage of the cowboy from the Spanish colonial period to the present day. This gallery houses the most extensive collection in the United States portraying the working cowboy. On display are the tools of the trade, the bridles, bits, spurs and saddles, and other gear the cowboy used to ply his trade. The evolution of cowboy gear can be seen through the display. The display has a chuck wagon complete with cook and two 'hongry' cowboys, exhibits of barbed wire and branding irons, information about the great trail drives, a room displaying a vaquero on his mount explores the Spanish contribution to the cowboy tradition. Exhibits dealing with rawhide braiding, cowboy fashion, cowboy hats, cowboy boots, bunk house traditions and saddlery round out the gallery.
The American Rodeo Gallery
This gallery celebrates the people, events and history of the American West's unique sport. From its beginnings in the 1860's and 1870's as impromptu competitions among working cowboys to today's crowdpleasing exibitions, rodeo is a distinctive sport. The gallery traces the journey of rodeo from its unstructured beginning through the Wild West show phenomenon into the more formal competition we know today. Rodeo gave women and minorities opportunity to show their skills along with the stereotypical cowhands. The gallery details the role women play in rodeo. Also are exhibits dealing with rodeo clowns, fancy roping, and trick riders. Rodeo consists of six events: Bull riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, steer roping, saddle bronc riding, and bareback bronc riding. Exhibits celebrate each event along with the greats who competed. The prizes for these competitions were highly sought after. Exhibits of marvelous trophies and awards are shown. The Rodeo Historical Society also has a display celebrating recent inductees. The Society has over 220 members inducted into its Hall of Fame.
Western Performers Gallery
This 4,000 square foot exhibit shows the influence the cowboy has made in books and film. The Wild West has always drawn the imagination of people to its mystery. From Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show to the silent movie cowboys to the talkies, fans have flocked to catch a glimpse of a world of adventure. The West was a place where a man could be free of the strictures of 'polite society', free to become his best, to overcome adversity, to triumph. The cowboy hero strikes a chord within each of our hearts, from Hopalong Cassidy to Clint Eastwood. Displays of memorabilia vary from that of John Wayne's personal collection of firearms, artwork, and memorabilia to artifacts from the 101 Ranch Wild West Show are available.
Native American Gallery
The gallery celebrates the thousands of years the Native American peoples have lived on the North American continent. Several aspects of Native American culture are examined. These include the way the human form was depicted by various cultures, their views of the universe and how man came to become part of it, the use of geometric patterns, floral patterns, and flags to convey artistic expression. The influence of the horse upon native culture and the importance of different animal symbols are also examined. Today in the United States there exist over 500 different tribes, each maintaining its own culture, beliefs, and traditions. The gallery highlights the tradition of artistry shown by these peoples and their heritage from the past as well as the continuing legacy they present to the future.
The Silberman Gallery
This gallery consists of small rotating thematic groupings that change every three to six months. The collection contains some 2,500 paintings, drawings, prints, and cultural/historical objects. It also possesses several thousand books, publications, recordings, photos, and slides. The gallery is the result of a 35 year passionate quest of Arthur Silberman along with his wife Shifra to bring the art of Native Americans to the attention of the public.
Weitzenhoffer Gallery of Fine American Firearms
This gallery displays in over 1,000 square feet the artistry and functionality of firearms from the late 19th century. Firearms from the producers of Colt, Remington, Sharps, Marlin, Smith and Wesson, Winchester, and Parker Brothers are included. The gallery shows the competition between the makers leading to rapid innovation in the development of American firearms. The exhibit contains almost 110 firearms for the enjoyment of visitors.
Joe Grandee Museum of the Frontier West
This gallery examines four aspects of the American West. These are Plains Native American Horse Culture, Traders and Trailblazers, U. S. Military Life and Culture, and Market and Sport Hunting and the origins of Conservation. Each area shows the contributions of these groups to the culture of the West in history and continuing forward.
The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum also has many other features for you to enjoy.
The Donald C. and Elizabeth M. Dickinson Research center contains thousands of photos, documents, and archival materials. It exists to help the museum fulfill its mission to collect, organize, preserve and make available materials relating to the West and its cultural and social influences.
There is a statue depicting Abraham Lincoln, who was considered a western President at the time. He was very influential on development of the West, signing the Homestead Act in 1862. This opened the West to settlement by over 1 million families , allowing unfettered ownership of valuable farmland and ranchsteads up until 1910. He also signed the College Land Grant Act that same year, enabling the establishment of institutes of higher learning in western states. With his support the Railroad Land Grant Acts of 1862 and 1864 were enacted, promoting the establishment of transcontinental railroads and further opening the West to development.
The Grayce B. Kerr Gallery features 3 exhibits per year on a rotating basis. The summer show is reserved for the Prix de West Invitational Exhibition, which features from 200 to 300 paintings and sculptures by the very finest contemporary western artists.
The William S. and Ann Atherton Art of the American West Gallery contains over 2,000 articles drawn from the museum's collection of paintings and sculptures. The 15,000 square foot gallery contains a myriad of pieces to delight the eye of the beholder.
The Eldridge Gallery seeks to broaden the public awareness of the function of the museum in its mission to collect, preserve and interpret the artwork contained therein.
The End of the Trail is an impressive plaster statue depicting one of the most recognized symbols of the American West. It was originally created for the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition. It found its way in 1920 to Visalia, California to a spot in Mooney Park where it quietly deteriorated. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum acquired the piece in 1968, restored it to its former grandeur and has made it a focal point of the museum.
Prosperity Junction, the 1900 cowtown, depicts life in a small western community in that time period. The settlement's 19 buildings are all recreated from designs and dimensions utilized at the turn of the century. A combination of sight and sound combine to give one a feel for the small town . Gas lights and kerosene lanterns provide illumination as the saloon piano plays. Further along the more restrained tones of a church organ find the ear. A dog barking along with the sound of the wind all create an atmosphere from the long ago in Prosperity Junction.
The grounds of the museum consist of 18 acres of gardens and plazas. Throughout the grounds one will find sculptures, ponds, streams, flowers, and trees.
The Persimmon Hill Restaurant provides dining at the museum. Lunch is served from 11:00 am until 2:30 pm. Snacks and desserts are available until 4:00 pm.
Persimmon Hill Magazine is the museum's flagship magazine, enhancing the mission to bring the West to the public. It features articles and biographies relating to all things Western. The magazine has won several awards and is currently viewed as the finest magazine available covering the American West.
The Children's Cowboy Corral is an interactive area filled with western activities for the kids. Boys and girls can cinch on their first pair of chaps and spurs and have a picture made or ride the stationary horse. Hang out as the cowboy sings and tells about life on the trail. Get on down to the chuck wagon and fix up some grub for your Mom and Dad. Build a campfire to keep warm. There are books, puzzles, and activities galore, so y'all come on down.
The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum hosts a wide variety of events throughout the year. Check the calandar for dates and times. Many events are open to the public while some are special reservation required events. There is something available for everyone .
Memberships are available to those who wish to join the museum in its mission. Memberships exist at a variety of levels and all offer benefits for participating in this fashion.
The museum has a store where you can acquire a memento of your visit or to give as a gift. You may purchase one (or several) items from cookbooks/cookware to art to Native American crafts to jewelry at the store.
The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73111
Telephone: (405) 478-2250 ext268
Fax: (405) 478-4714