Heritage and Research Center
Yellowstone’s collections document the cultural and natural history of the world’s first national park and the conditions of its resources. The historic collections document the park from pre-history through the present. The collections include objects and written records that document the history and science of the park, changes in perception and meaning over time, and the interaction between people and nature. Specimens range from geologic and natural history to Native American and European American cultural materials.
It is National Park Service policy to collect, protect, preserve, provide access to, and use objects, specimens, and archival and manuscript collections to aid understanding and advance knowledge. Collections play important roles in resource management, research, and education programs, and function as baseline databases for park natural and cultural resources.
With several million items, Yellowstone has one of the largest collections in the National Park Service. Yellowstone National Park’s collections grow continuously with the addition of archival records (generated mostly by National Park Service staff), archeological and natural science objects, important donations, and occasional purchases.
Heritage and Research Center
For years, the collections were housed in various locations within and outside of the park, where they were frequently threatened by flood, fire, environmental degradation, theft, and inattention. With the opening of the Heritage and Research Center in 2005, the collections of “Wonderland” are finally housed together, with the exception of the historic vehicles, and their storage brought up to the standards demanded by the National Park Service, the American Alliance of Museums, and the National Archives and Records Administration.
Most of these items are kept in the Heritage and Research Center, which is located at 20 Old Yellowstone Trail, outside the park entrance in Gardiner, Montana. The Heritage and Research Center is a collections storage facility that also houses the park’s herbarium and archeology lab, and features small rotating exhibits in the lobby.
Together, several million items, one of the largest in the National Park Service.
Located at 20 Old Yellowstone Trail, Gardiner, Montana
Conducting Collections Research
Researchers range from local high school students working on term papers to tourists re-tracing an ancestor’s visit, and from park staff developing education programs or researching climate change to filmmakers preparing a miniseries for PBS.
Researchers are encouraged to complete their preliminary research at other archives, libraries, and/or museum collections with a broad topical focus before approaching the holdings of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone has limited reference staff and resources that must be made available to researchers whose work focuses on materials available only at the park. Access to materials is dependent upon their physical condition and the level of processing to date by the park staff. All research must be done on-site in the museum research room or the library reading room.
For information about the Heritage and Research Center building, please call 307-344-2662
For general park information, please call 307-344-7381