Blue Star Museums Blog (Archive)

What's on View at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Visitors to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum get a taste of the pioneering spirit of the American West and the values held by the iconic cowboy. Built in 1965, the museum showcases Western history, art, and cinema in an expansive 220,000 square foot building, which sits on Persimmon Hill in Oklahoma City.

The End of the Trail by James Earle Fraser. Image courtesy of National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

As visitors enter the museum they are taken aback by James Earle Fraser's sculpture, The End of the Trail, which portrays the ultimate defeat of the American Indian and the closing of the Western frontier. The End of the Trail was originally cast in bronze and placed on Presidio Point, overlooking San Francisco Bay, following the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915.

American Bowie knives, makers unknown, circa 1840-1860. Both with clip-point blades and recurved crossguards. Knife at left features cow horn handle scales; knife at right features a one-piece handle of polished cherry wood. Image courtesy of National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

In April of this year and continuing through November 20, 2011, The Bowie Knife: Icon of American Character debuted as an educational exhibition highlighting examples of knives from the museum’s collection and superlative specimens loaned by Bowie knife authority, E. Norman Flayderman. Visitors can learn about the role of the knife in all walks of life in the West, from the frontiersman, to the gambler, to the soldier.

John Wayne Bronze by Edward J. Fraughton. Image courtesy of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

Several permanent galleries encompass much of the museum. A favorite is the Western Performers Gallery, which explores the various ways the West has been interpreted in literature and film. Honoring Western performers who have contributed to the making and preservation of the stories and legends of the West, the gallery includes a small theater, as well as extensive collections of memorabilia from the B-Westerns, and classic John Wayne and singing cowboy films. Other popular galleries include the American Cowboy Gallery, American Rodeo Gallery, Joe Grandee Museum of the Frontier West, Native American Gallery, Silberman Gallery of Native American Art, and the Weitzenhoffer Gallery of Fine American Firearms.

Main Street of Prosperity Junction. Image courtesy of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

Children of all ages enjoy Prosperity Junction. This turn-of-the-century Old West cattle town presents an overview of the socio-economic aspects of urban life in the historical American West through the use of full-size structures and audio-visual presentations. This educational opportunity allows the visitor to explore business and home life as it existed in the early 1900s. Additionally, outside the Children’s Cowboy Corral is a friendly, hands-on space that invites children to feel the West as it was when cowboys and ranges were plentiful.

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73111

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