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
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. 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.
Located at 20 Old Yellowstone Trail, Gardiner, Montana
Researchers range from 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 before approaching the specialized holdings of Yellowstone National Park. Access to materials is dependent upon staff availability, the condition of the materials, and the level of cataloging completed. All research must be done on-site.
Selected portions of our records have been digitized and placed online. This is an ongoing project.
For information about the Heritage and Research Center building, please call 307-344-2662
For general park information, please call 307-344-7381
Last updated: August 26, 2019