A Unifying Story of the American West
Cody, Wyoming’s Buffalo Bill Historical Center (BBHC) has been referred to as the “Smithsonian of the West”. Established by Buffalo Bill Cody’s family to archive his letters and memorabilia, the museum eventually became a renowned research center and the home of collections of western art, firearms, natural history and Native American artifacts. With five distinct collections, the museum gave each a unique name and curator, and began describing itself as “five museums under one roof”. This did little to showcase the richness and excitement of its collections, nor did it appeal to families visiting nearby Yellowstone Park.
Buffalo Bill was a showman, once known to be the world’s most famous person celebrity. The Buffalo Bill Historical Center, with its “five museums”, created the perceptions of a dusty library of artifacts. We recommended a return to storytelling, in a way that would highlight the vibrancy of each collection, under a single exciting idea “The Home of the American West”. Under this umbrella, each of the five collections represents a unique influence on the American spirit that emerged in the West. Buffalo Bill represents rugged individualism. The Whitney Gallery of Western Art represents expression. The Plains Indian Museum tells the story of culture, The Draper Natural History Museum documents the natural environment, and the Cody Firearms Museum represents new technology. The resulting story combines all the elements that helped shape our unique and distinctive American character.
This singular story with wide ranging appeal inspired the BBHC, now aptly renamed the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, to showcase its various collections in combinations that told richer, more engaging stories. The re-opening of the Whitney Gallery for its 50th anniversary, and the renovated Buffalo Bill Gallery both drew inspiration from this bigger story. The company launched a new web site, featuring an immersion into its interactive collections, in 2011.