To inspire, educate, and engage global audiences through an authentic experience with the American West.
The story of the West is uniquely American—an account with which all Americans can identify. Exploring the American West through art, science, culture, and history allows us to reconnect with a sense of place found nowhere else on earth.
The Spirit of the American West is a story that began thousands of years ago.
Charles Russell (1864 – 1926). “Trail’s End,” 1926. Gift of Charles Ulrick and Josephine Bay Foundation, Inc. 95.60
Native Americans were first, drawn to the bounty and beauty of the new land. They touched lightly upon the land and lived in harmony with it and became connected.
Then the explorers and pioneers came, along with the settlers, ranchers, and cowboys—rugged people, willing to risk all with courage and vision.
The story rises from the West itself—the soaring mountains, rushing rivers, endless plains, breathtaking skies, abundant wildlife, and the often harsh beauty of nature.
The story tells of those who came to change the land, and were changed by it. The people of the West had their struggles and triumphs, heartbreaks and humor; their stories became a mosaic of myth, of legend, and of fact. It is the Spirit of the American West, and it is a story that must be told.
William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody told the story—and lived the tale—like no other. Explorer and frontiersman, soldier and scout, actor and showman, entrepreneur and civic leader, Buffalo Bill was emblematic of the American West to his countrymen and to the world. Through characters, voices, artifacts, and legends, Cody weaved a colorful tapestry that brought to life the Spirit of the American West. Even today, his legacy continues to shape how we think about our history and the American character.
Hand-colored photograph, Buffalo Bill behind the scenes at a Wild West show, ca. 1910. Original Buffalo Bill Museum Collection. P.69.82
Just over a century ago, Cody dreamed of an institution that would “teach people by seeing history.” His dream is realized in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, the town he founded and that bears his name. Housed on an impressive campus, the Center’s collection of western objects, papers and research materials, photographs, and art is unmatched. Scholars and journalists alike explore the Center’s unique resources to discover a deeper understanding of our country’s signature place and time. Compelling exhibits, programs, and outreach offer visitors from around the world an opportunity to connect to the American West in a very personal way. To be sure, in every visitor, the Spirit of the American West is reborn.
Yes, Buffalo Bill’s dream is alive today. The story is being told…and there is so much yet to tell. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West takes seriously its role as guardian and storyteller of the Spirit of the American West. Moreover, in retelling that story, our own dream will be realized, and the Spirit of the American West will be kept alive among us. In the end, the story is about connecting the Spirit with our audiences and the American West. This is our vision and the plan to accomplish this vision becomes part of the Spirit itself.
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is grounded in what was the American West and operates now in what is the American West. What the American West will be is a clean palette on which the Spirit of the American West that exists at the Center can grow, change, and prevail.
Our dream is that within twenty years the Buffalo Bill Center of the West will be recognized for linking our national character and values to the Spirit of the American West.