The Buffalo Bill Center of the West, formerly known as the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, is a complex of five museums and a research library featuring art and artifacts of the American West located in Cody, Wyoming. The five museums include the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Plains Indians Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, and the Cody Firearms Museum. Founded in 1917 to preserve the legacy and vision of Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is the oldest and most comprehensive museum complex of the West. It has been described by The New York Times as “among the nation’s most remarkable museums.”
The complex can be traced to 1917, when the Buffalo Bill Memorial Association was established after the death of William F. Cody, the original Buffalo Bill. Gradually other elements were added to what started as a historical center. The current seven-acre building has more than 50,000 artifacts and holds five museums.
Since 2008, the Center of the West has been part of the Smithsonian Affiliates program, the first museum complex in Wyoming to have this status. As an Affiliate, the Center of the West has hosted Smithsonian artifacts. It has also recently loaned some of its own vast collections to a Smithsonian exhibition in Washington, D.C.
The museums of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West are connected by a unifying “credo” (adopted 2010 by the Board of Trustees) that begins, “We believe in a spirit, definable and intellectually real, called ‘The Spirit of the American West.'” The institution includes the recently reconceived Buffalo Bill Museum, which highlights Western ephemera and historic objects in telling the life story of W. F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Edward Rothstein of the New York Times wrote,
“The exhibition [on Buffalo Bill] affirms what the center as a whole demonstrates: that behind the mythologizing is something worth cherishing, even if it is flawed, complex and still evolving. The old impulse to demolish the myth has been put aside.
Buffalo Bill Museum
Debuting in summer 2012, the Buffalo Bill Museum has been reconceived to present a 21st-century experience for its visitors. The inaugural museum opened in 1927 in a log cabin across from the current location. It was reinstalled in 1986, and it is now part of a five-museum complex. The Buffalo Bill Museum offers a wide-ranging view of the life and times of William F. Cody, as well as of the “Buffalo Bill” character he created, which made him the world’s most celebrated person of his time. The story of “Man of the West, Man of the World” presents an interactive narrative of this complex man.
The museum showcases the fame and success Cody attained through his “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show,” and addresses his significant influence on the economic and cultural development of the American West. The exhibits also reveal an intimate portrait of this major American figure – his personal successes and failures, as well as his financial fortunes and misfortunes.