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Connecting People to the American West: Buffalo Bill Center of the West shares Western history in five family-friendly museums

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a collection of five family-friendly museums, stands proud in the heart of Cody.

The center is dedicated to sharing epic stories of early exploration and present day happenings in Yellowstone National Park and the American West in one place for one price. 

“We’re surrounded by the majesty of the Rockies and are privy to the history and myths of the Old West, the vibrant life of the New West and the living cultures of Plains Indian peoples,” reads the museum’s website. 

“Join us as we connect people to the stories of the American West through galleries, exhibitions, programs and kid-approved activities,” it continues. “Through presence and participation in all we have to offer, visitors will find that this is their West.” 

Five museums, one location

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West has become a premier destination for visitors interested in the history of the American West.

An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the center sprawls an impressive 300,000 square feet and is home to an extensive collection of artifacts, interactive displays, Western art and other exhibits. 

These exhibits are displayed in five separate museums housed under one roof, including the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, the Plains Indian Museum and the Whitney Western Art Museum. 

According to the website, the Buffalo Bill Museum explores the history and myth of the American West through the private life of Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, while the Draper Natural History Museum highlights the relationship between man and nature with a focus on the wildlife and landscapes of the Greater Yellowstone Area. 

Founded in 1991 and recently redesigned in 2019, the Cody Firearms Museum houses more than 10,000 artifacts in its walls, including over 4,000 firearms, making it the most comprehensive firearms museum in the U.S.

Visitors can also explore the culture, history and living traditions of the Plains natives in one of the nation’s largest collections of Native American art and artifacts at the Plains Indian Museum. 

“The Plains Indian Museum reveals how the art, history, traditions and contemporary lives of Plains Indian peoples helped shape the character of the American West,” notes the center’s website. 

“The Whitney Western Art Museum depicts the tapestry of the American West through the eyes of the artists – Bierstadt, Remington, Russell and more – who interpreted and defined it,” the website continues. 

Events and other experiences

In addition to housing a world-class collection of ancient art, artifacts and other displays, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West provides a venue for a multitude of programs and activities.

From March 1 through May 1 and May 29 through Sept. 4, the museum hosts its daily Live Raptor Experience in the Draper Natural History Museum. This family-friendly event allows visitors of all ages to learn about birds of prey and see a live bald eagle, golden eagle, turkey vulture, peregrine falcon, red-tailed hawk and owls, among others.

Every Tuesday and Saturday, from June to August, 2 Mules Chuckwagon offers a special dining experience, in which attendees can watch and taste authentic Dutch-oven cooking. Cooking begins at 5:30 p.m. and dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. Reservations are required. 

Additionally, the center hosts special monthly programs. Programs scheduled for October include a wolf-elk interaction presentation and discussion at 12 p.m. on Oct. 5, a Coffee and Curators Members Event at 10 a.m. on Oct. 7, a presentation on early day Western movies by Bob Richard at 12 p.m. on Oct. 19 and a Buffalo Gals Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. on Oct. 25. 

Customized, private tours are also available, and the facility provides rental spaces for special events.

Internships and school programs

In addition to acting as a venue for family-friendly events, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is also dedicated to supporting the youth of its community. 

The center offers a multitude of school programs for Kindergarten through 12th grade students including virtual and in-person field trips, the Park County Youth Program, the MILES Program and a plethora of teaching resources. 

Older students can also gain experience through the center’s summer internship program, where they have an opportunity to partake in specialized learning in everything from conservation, education, public relations and more. 

“The center’s summer internship program provides opportunities for students who want to gain practical museum experience and to assist students in the development of new or expanded applications for their academic and professional interests,” explains the center’s website.

“The internship program offers students hands-on involvement with the museum profession in a manner which cannot be duplicated in the classroom or through textbooks. These experiences may result in graduate theses and dissertations and assist students in defining their career goals,” the website continues.

Internships are full-time positions and usually last 10 weeks. Interns are paid $12.50 per hour for 40 hours per week and are provided a a $750 housing stipend.

For more information on the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, as well as the programs, events, experiences and internships it offers, visit

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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