Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Buffalo Bill Center of the West Page
Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Since 1927

Posted November 2021


ith a history dating back to the formation of the Buffalo Bill Memorial Association in 1917, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West has become the largest history, art, and natural science museum between Minneapolis and the West Coast, encompassing an area the size of five-and-a-quarter football fields.

Located in Cody, Wyoming, a town of just 10,000 and only 50 miles from Yellowstone National Park's East Gate, visitors are stunned when they venture inside. With 175,000 visitors annually, the award-winning Center of the West is the most popular cultural attraction in the Yellowstone region. The five museums and research library boast priceless treasures related to the art, history, culture, and natural science of the American West: 100,000 objects; 500,000 historical photos; 30,000 books; 25,000-plus historic images and documents online; and 2,000 linear feet of documents and records.

One of the busiest attractions in the Western United States

With five separate museums, the complex spans 300,000 square feet:

  • The Buffalo Bill Museum
  • The Whitney Gallery of Western Art
  • The Plains Indian Museum
  • The Cody Firearms Museum
  • The Draper Museum of Natural History


Buffalo Bill Center of the West on US Map
Buffalo Bill Center of the West is in Wyoming

In 1866, Charles Goodnight invented the chuckwagon, a 10-foot by 40-inches wide covered wagon that carried food, water, cooking tools and a dutch oven. It revolutionized meal time for cowboys who previously had to scramble for food on long cattle drives.

Bison display at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Bison display

There are many names for the American Bison:
Scientifically, the plains bison subspecies found in Badlands National Park are of the genus Bison, of the species bison, and the subspecies bison. If you ask a wildlife biologist, these animals are called Bison bison bison!

Although these animals have "bison" three times in their scientific name, they are often called buffalo. The word buffalo is derived from the French "boeuf," a name given to bison when French fur trappers working in the US in the early 1600s saw the animals. The word boeuf came from what the French knew as true buffalo, animals living in Africa and Asia. Although this name was a mix-up of two different animals, many people still know bison as buffalo today.

Another name for these animals is "tatanka." Tatanka is the Lakota word for bison. Another word for bison in Lakota is "pte." The Lakota are sometimes known as pte oyate, meaning "buffalo nation."


Teepee display
Teepee display

Natural history of the region comes to life through interpretive exhibits of flora and fauna. The Draper Museum's spiral design simulates a descent in elevation as visitors walk from the alpine environment of bighorn sheep and mountain goats through the forest, meadows, and down to the plains and basins. The Draper Museum's interactive quality is what really makes it a hit.


Golden Eagle
A Female Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle in the Museum Golden Eagle in the Museum

The Center of the West is a Smithsonian Affiliate. It's five museums:

Draper Natural History Museum:
At the beginning of the top floor, you start the journey in the Alpine section. You can learn about the ecosystem and wildlife within that ecosystem.

Interactive displays:

  • Alpine
  • Mountain Forests
  • Mountain Meadow
  • Plains
  • Basin

Buffalo Bill Museum:
There is a ton of history packed into this museum, and it is a must see if you are looking to learn more about Cody and Buffalo Bill. Much of Cody is named after him and his family - Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Buffalo Bill Dam, Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Even the historic Irma Hotel downtown Cody is named after his daughter, Irma. Throughout the museum are galleries focused on family, the Wild West Show, and so much more. The galleries are full of amazing artifacts and items of Buffalo Bill, his family, the town of Cody, and the Wild West Show.

Plains Indian Museum:
What life in Wyoming was like for Native Americans; both their daily lives and the traditions they held to. From several life size teepees and dozens of displays with historic artifacts. This museum is rich in history, artifacts, and art.

Whitney Western Art museum:
There timeless works of art to include paintings and bronze sculptures, including a gallery showcasing Frederic Remington's studio, his letters, and his artwork. There is a massive gallery displaying how bronze statues are made. Much of the artwork is historic, but there are a variety of styles and mediums.

The Cody Firearms Museum:
Thousands of guns are on display, and the museum is massive and interactive. It is one of the largest gun collections in America. Every time you turn the corner, there is an entirely new gallery showcasing guns of the west or the ornamental and intricately designed firearms, and guns from all over the world. Be sure to visit the military section with the tent - there are interactive touch screens where you can learn the history of military firearms. Also, head downstairs to the gun library where you can open drawers and cabinets filled with guns. Sorted by war or by era.


Draper Museum of Natural History:
Opened in 2002, the Draper Museum of Natural History portrays the natural world as it appeared to early inhabitants and explorers. Trailing down a circular walkway from the alpine tundra to the plains, one hears the far-off cry of the wolf, the crackle of a forest fire, or a gust of wind whisking the pine trees. Along the way, one develops a keen understanding of the ways humans interact with their environment, especially in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This first natural history museum of the 21st century employs high-tech and interactive audio and visual display panels and open spaces for hands-on entertainment and education.


Harold McCracken Research Library:
The library houses a collection of 30,000 books, over 400 manuscript collections, and more than half-million photographs. Named in honor of Harold McCracken, writer, artist, and developer of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the library supports "inquiry across many disciplines related to the American West." The library has strong collections relating to Buffalo Bill, the Wild West show, Plains Indians, cattle and "dude" ranching, the fishing and hunting industries, the oil industry, Yellowstone National Park, and the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

It has been described by The New York Times as among the nation's most remarkable museums
Buffalo Bill Center of the West:
  • The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is the oldest and most comprehensive museum complex of the West.
  • 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 has been part of the Smithsonian Affiliates program. 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 Center is located in the authentic western town of Cody, founded by namesake, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody in the heart of the Greater Yellowstone region just outside Yellowstone National Park's East Gate.

720 Sheridan Ave
Cody, Wyoming 82414