Yellowstone's Collections

hand-drawn architectural designs
Yellowstone and the National Park Service collect, protect, and preserve objects, specimens, and archival materials related to Yellowstone’s natural and cultural history. These public collections are made available for research and educational purposes. They play an important role in resource management and function as baseline information.

With over 6 million items, Yellowstone has one of the largest collections in the National Park Service. The collections grow continuously with the addition of archival records, archeological artifacts, and scientific specimens.

To learn more, schedule an appointment to explore the herbarium or archives, sign up for a public tour of the museum collection, drop in during business hours to explore the library collection and public exhibits, or view our online collections anytime!
 
 

Heritage and Research Center

Before 2005, Yellowstone’s collections were stored in various locations both inside and outside the park, where they were subject to deterioration, damage, and theft. With the opening of the Heritage and Research Center, these collections, apart from historic vehicles, were relocated and stored in a single location. This state-of-the-art storage facility meets standards set by the National Park Service, the American Alliance of Museums, and the National Archives and Records Administration. Both the Heritage and Research Center and its staff enable the continued preservation of Yellowstone’s collections.

Researchers must complete and sign the following forms prior to accessing the collections: Access Policy, Researcher Registration form, and the Copyright & Privacy Waiver.

Operating Hours

  • Monday–Friday, 9am–4pm
  • Closed on federal holidays
 
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The Heritage and Research Center is a state-of-the-art storage facility meets standards set by the National Park Service, the American Alliance of Museums, and the National Archives and Records Administration. Both the Heritage and Research Center and its staff enable the continued preservation of Yellowstone’s collections.

 

  • Bags and coats must be left in the lockers outside the library.
  • Patrons may only use pencils in the Reading Room. Pens are NOT ALLOWED.
  • There is NO public email access in the library.
  • Food and drinks are prohibited.
  • Copyright rules must be observed.
  • Copying from print and microform is available for $.25 a page. Digital photos (without flash) are allowed. Please be aware that fragile items cannot be copied.
  • The library staff can perform limited research for patrons by mail or in person. Please allow up to one month for all research requests. It is recommended that extensive research be done in person.
 
Public exhibits in Heritage and Research Center
Visitors viewing public exhibits at the Heritage and Research Center.

NPS / Jacob W. Frank

Current Exhibits

The Heritage and Research Center is primarily a collections storage facility and research center rather than a museum, but we do curate small exhibits for public viewing.
  • Women in Yellowstone: This exhibit tells the story of several women from the early history of Yellowstone National Park through their work as park rangers, naturalists, and entrepreneurs.
Park visitors can also see museum specimens and artifacts on display in the park at the Norris Ranger Museum, Albright Visitor Center, and Old Faithful Visitor Center.
 
Research librarians in book stacks
Research librarians, Heritage and Research Center

Library Collections

Browse the library's catalog or research databases, available through the WYLD Network for library patrons. The Yellowstone Research Library research room and collections are open to the public, free of charge.

The research library collects published and unpublished materials related to the greater Yellowstone area to make them available to park staff, researchers, and the public. The library collection consists of more than 20,000 books, periodicals, theses and dissertations, maps, unpublished manuscripts, microforms of historic newspapers and scrapbooks, brochures, technical reports, and audio-visual material. Support from Yellowstone Forever, private donors, and federal funding have allowed our staff to curate an impressive, possibly unsurpassed, library of Yellowstone’s resources. The library collection is owned by the National Park Service and is managed through a cooperative agreement process with the Great Basin Institute.
 
Shelves filled with archival documents
U.S. Army Yellowstone Archives

Archival Collections

The Yellowstone Archive and collections are open by appointment only.

The Yellowstone Archives contains records documenting the natural and cultural resources of Yellowstone. They also detail the military administration of the park (1886-1918), the evolution of the national park concept following Yellowstone's establishment, the formulation of management policies, records of park concessioners, and ongoing developments in park management today. The collection includes historic maps, photographs, films, oral histories, administrative records, and scientific data.

The Yellowstone Archives is an affiliate of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which allows the park to permanently hold federal records instead of transferring them to the National Archives. While legal custody of these records belongs to NARA, physical custody is kept by Yellowstone National Park to allow researchers to have the best access to both current and historical resources in one location.
 

Finding Aids

Yellowstone's Records details the official records of the administration and operation of the park. The records are generally organized by function. Subjects include policy, resource management, fire, development and much more.

Preliminary Inventories

These collections are not fully arranged or described. Check back as we continue to catalog the records and prepare formal finding aids.

The Yellowstone National Park Archives' Manuscript Collections contain documents, photos, and ephemera donated by visitors, researchers, and others. The collection is particularly strong in topics such as tourism, concessioners, and photographs.

 
Digitizing herbarium specimens
Digitizing herbarium specimens

Herbarium

The Yellowstone Herbarium is open by appointment only. (307) 344-2564.

The herbarium primarily contains plants collected in Yellowstone. Our specimens document the presence of plants in the park over time, and the history of plant collecting in the park. The collection includes more than 17,000 specimens of vascular and non-vascular plants, fungi, and lichens. Our oldest specimens date to 1899 and traveled to the World Fair in 1903.

The specimens are available for scientific study via loans to accredited institutions. Generally, loans are made for taxonomic or floristic research only, but exceptions may be made for other botanical investigations. A loan request from the researcher or curator of the institution where the specimens are to be shipped must be submitted in writing, email preferred.
 

  • First-time visitors must receive an orientation and specimen handling instructions.
  • Great care should always be used when handling specimens.
  • Specimens should be held flat with both hands, such that the paper cannot bend and damage the specimen.
  • Similarly, folders should always be carried horizontally and fully supported.
  • Specimens in folders should never be shuffled as it can lead to damage of the underlying specimen. Furthermore, specimens should never be turned over as a page in a book.
  • To inspect the contents of a folder, place it flat on a table, and stack specimens face up neatly to one side. Specimens on acidic paper should be maintained in a separate folder from the specimens on acid-free paper.
  • Never rest objects such as books, elbows, etc., on specimens or folders.
  • Specimens in need of annotation or repair should be brought to the attention of the herbarium staff.
 
Museum collections items on display
Public tour of the museum collection at Heritage and Research Center

Museum Collections

Yellowstone’s museum collections can be viewed during free public tours Wednesdays at 4pm, with advance registration, between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The museum collections document the cultural and natural history of the world’s first national park and the conditions of its resources. They include historic, ethnographic, and archeological artifacts as well as biological, paleontological and geologic specimens. These collections tell the history of Yellowstone through exhibit and scientific research.

Yellowstone cares for a collection of over 25 historic wagons and vehicles spanning from transportation using the railroad all the way to tourist transportation such as a snowmobile or over snow Bombardier. Additional historic materials preserved by the museum include original material related to the original 1871 Hayden expedition, fine art, architectural elements, furnishings from historic structures and lodges, photographic material, publications, memorabilia, and souvenirs.

The scientific collections are historic collections collected over 100 years ago for exhibitions as well as current scientific specimens and data collected under permit.
 

Online Collections

Contact Information

Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
(307) 344-2264

Physical Address
Heritage and Research Center
20 Old Yellowstone Trail
Gardiner, MT 59030

Mailing Address
Heritage and Research Center
Attn: (List office here, e.g. Archives)
PO Box 168
Yellowstone NP, WY 82190

More Information

 
Three uniformed people working around excavated dirt. Two stand by wooden boxes; one uses a shovel.
Archeology

Archeological resources are a key source of information about humans in Yellowstone.

Black and white image of a large, wooden A-frame structure.
Cultural Landscapes

Yellowstone contains an array of landscapes that reflect the park’s history and development patterns.

Historic colorized photograph of horses going under a large stone arch.
History & Culture

Explore the rich human and ecological stories that continue to unfold.

Branches and limbs cluster around a growing conifer on a windswept mountain top.
Plants

More than 1,300 plant taxa occur in Yellowstone National Park.

two park rangers inspecting the wing of a small bird
Science Publications & Reports

View science publications and reports created by Yellowstone's Center for Resources on a variety of park topics.

Last updated: May 14, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

307-344-7381

Contact Us