Thursday, August 4, 2016


By Cheri Kay Clifton

Knowing our love of all things western, I'm fairly certain most of our Sweethearts of the West authors have had the pleasure of visiting a few western museums.  And if you're like me, whenever I travel, I'm always looking for another museum to spend a few hours immersed in the exhibits and displays of objects, artwork, documents, and photos, especially if they pertain to the American West.

With the count too many to list of small privately owned to large public state and national museums, I writing about a few I have already checked off my "bucket list," and a few I've read about and would like to visit someday.

One of the finest and most remarkable western museums I've ever visited was the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.  I spent not hours, but two full days there and with so much to see and do, I could have gone again and again.  Founded in 1917, the complex of five museums include Buffalo Bill Museum, the Plains Indians Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum and the Cody Firearms Museum.  Preserving the legacy and vision of Col. William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, the center is the oldest and one of the most comprehensive museum complexes of the West.

Don't confuse the aforementioned with another museum, The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave in Golden, Colorado which I've also visited.  It has a number of permanent exhibits about Buffalo Bill Cody's life and times as well as special temporary exhibits every year.  Of course, the most important exhibit on-site is Buffalo Bill's grave. By his request, Buffalo Bill was buried on Lookout Mountain in 1917, overlooking the Great Plains and the Rockies.

Many of you who are historic railroad buffs would thoroughly enjoy spending a day as I and hubby did at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. (Mind you, my beloved is used to being dragged around museums and even a ghost town or two!)  For Hell on Wheels fans the museum has the Transcontinental Gallery on display through August 31, 2016.  With props and costumes on loan from Legends Memorabilia & Auctions, the focus of this exhibit is to demonstrate how the fictional Hell on Wheels program has sparked interest in the actual series of events that led up to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

The locomotive collection in the Railroad Museum contains 19 steam locomotives dating from 1862 to 1944. The Museum’s locomotives illustrate the development of steam technology from its early years in the mid-nineteenth century through its apogee and climax in the 1940s.  The engines range in size from the diminutive Southern Pacific No. 1, “C.P. Huntington,” to the million-pound giant, Southern Pacific articulated cab-forward No. 4294. Fewer than 30 full-size steam locomotives built prior to 1880 exist in the United States. The Museum has five of these, including Central Pacific Railroad locomotive No. 1, “Gov. Stanford.” While the locomotive collection of the California State Railroad Museum is extensive, only a portion is on public exhibition at any one time. The remaining engines are either undergoing restoration or awaiting restoration in the Museum’s shop facilities.
While in Sacramento, a must see for me was the Wells Fargo Museum at the Capitol Mall.  At the time I was writing Book 2 of my Wheels of Destiny, titled Destiny's Journey, a story about a Wells Fargo detective.  (No, I didn't name my hero after the star of the old TV western, Tales of Wells Fargo, though I remember the handsome actor, Dale Robertson well!)

Not only did the museum have an authentic 1866 Abbot-Downing stagecoach, but also a working telegraph line, real gold specimens of the area and artifacts, documents, furnishings and photos of Wells Fargo history.  I also visited Wells Fargo History Museum in the Hastings building in Old Historic Sacramento where Wells Fargo opened its second office over 160 years ago.

As for my not yet visited "bucket list" of museums, here's three more that I'd like to check off.
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK.  This facility has more than 28,000 Western and American Indian art works, artifacts and regalia as well as boasting the world's most extensive collection of American rodeo photographs, barbed wire, saddlery and early rodeo trophies. 
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, TX.  This museum showing how rough and daring cowgirls are has my vote!  The museum is dedicated to honoring women of the American West who have displayed extraordinary courage and pioneering fortitude.  

Boot Hill Museum, Dodge City, KS.  Located on the original site of the Boot Hill Cemetery, the museum provides visitors with a nostalgic trip back to when Dodge City was a "wild and wooly" cowtown, where millions of Texas longhorn cattle came up the well known Western Cattle Trail and other famous trails.

Of course, there's lots more museums too numerous to mention that I'd like to see.
What museums have you seen and what ones are on your bucket list?

Born in Nebraska, Cheri Kay Clifton loved researching the Oregon Trail, historically known as the "Gateway to the West." Her passion for those brave pioneers, Native Americans and 19th Century America led her to write the epic western historical Wheels of Destiny Trilogy.  Cheri is married to her high school sweetheart and has one grown son.  If she’s not riding on the back of her husband’s Harley, she’s writing the third book in the Wheels of Destiny Trilogy which includes already published Book 1, Trail To Destiny and Award Winning Book 2, Destiny’s Journey.

"The Old West isn't just a time or place, it's a state of mind."

"I get ideas, do a lot of research, then breathe life into my characters.  I like strong heroines, but lovable; strong heroes, but vulnerable."

Reviews from Easychair Bookshop judges:  "A must read western romance." "A 10/10 read." "Action, adventure, romance at its very best."

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  1. Cheri--sad to say, I've not visited any of those museums. I've visited all those cities--but not the museums. During our traveling years, western historical anything had not hit and consumed me...or I would have. Of all these, I'd like to visit the Cowgirl Museum in Fort Worth and the major one in Oklahoma City--National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
    I enjoy posts such as this--interesting and told from a personal POV. Excellent. Thanks!

    1. I've been a cowgirl at heart since a little girl, so always liked western museums. Glad you enjoyed, Celia.

  2. I live near the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. I love that place. They have rotating exhibits so you can go again and again. I've also been to the one in OK City, but didn't have nearly enough time to see as much as we wanted. Love knowing about your experiences, Cheri Kay.

    1. Yes, fun to read about all our sweethearts' experiences. Through them we learn more and more about our American Western world.

  3. I offered to take my granddaughter to the RR museum in Sacramento when she was out last month, but she, my daughters and other grandchildren opted for the beach. Imagine that. I'll drag my husband up there before the month is out. Looks like I need to make a day of it while I'm up in Sacto. The museums I would like to see are too numerous to mention

    1. Too bad we sweethearts are so spread out, it would be such fun to visit museums together!

  4. I love the Buffalo Bill Center in Cody and I also enjoyed the California State Railroad museum. Some of my other favorites are The Heard Museum of Native American culture in Phoenix, Goldfield Ghost Town near Phoenix, The Texas Rangers Museum in Waco, Texas, and the Presidio La Bahia in Goliad, Texas. Also the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah if you really like railroad stuff. There are a lot of little regional western museums that I think are charming, too. I'm a bit of a museum addict!

    I'd love to get to Boot Hill sometime, and Tombstone.

  5. Theresa, sounds like you've already checked off a lot of museums on your bucket list!

  6. Cheri, there aren't any western museums I know of near the Charlotte, NC area, so haven't been to any around here. I have been to a few when I lived in Nebraska many years ago though, but none that you featured in your article. I did visit the Alamo museum in San Antonio, TX way back in 1970. Does that count?
    I enjoyed the pictures you posted and your information about the interesting western museums you've visited. All the best to you.

    1. My homes are in Florida & Waynesville, NC (not that far from you), but business & pleasure trips have taken me west several times over the years.

  7. Hi Cheri, I love to explore museums. If you ever get to Coloma or Placerville, California they have excellent museums. In Coloma, where gold was first discovered, they have a very used stagecoach that is awesome to see. The museum in Placerville shows a lot of the equipment used in 1849 and even the inside of a grocery store. I spent a lot of time in that place to get ideas for several of my Paradise Pines Series stories. Great post today.

  8. Paisley, would love to visit Placerville since my book, Trail to Destiny, ends there. It's now on my bucket list!

  9. Great post, Cheri. I would love to visit all the museums you mentioned, especially the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody. I have been to the National Cowgirl Museum here in Fort Worth (well worth visiting) and the Texas Rangers Museum in Waco. Also, years ago when researching for my first book, Darlin' Irish, hubby and I stopped at the Union Station in Omaha, Nebraska. It's sort of a museum and stunning in its Art Deco design. I wish we had crossed the river to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where the Union Pacific RR Museum is located, but we were on our way north to visit family in Minnesota. Not enough time, darn!

  10. Lyn, I do hope you'll be able to visit Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody someday. The town itself is a great place to visit, not to mention Yellowstone not far away.


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