Yellowstone’s museum collection contains more than 720,000 items that, along with the archives and library collection, document the cultural and natural history of the park. The museum collection consists of natural history, archeological, and cultural objects, including obsidian points, skulls from the first wolves reintroduced in the park, Thomas Moran’s original watercolor field sketches, William Henry Jackson’s photographs, furniture from the historic hotels and other historic structures, and an extensive historic vehicle collection ranging from stagecoaches and wagons, through early buses and automobiles, to fire trucks and a snowmobile.
The collection is used each year by park staff and other researchers looking for background information on Yellowstone history, specific reference material, and illustrations for commercial products, school programs, special events, and adult education. The televised series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” by Ken Burns contained hundreds of images from Yellowstone’s collections.
While the Heritage and Research Center does have some rotating exhibits in the lobby area, the facility was not designed to be a museum, but rather a research center and a state-of-the-art storage facility. With exception of some restricted collections, such as Thomas Moran’s original watercolor field sketches, William Henry Jackson’s photographs, and other rare or fragile items, the museum collections are accessible to researchers by appointment only and require at least 24-hours advanced notice.
Free public tours of the Heritage and Research Center are Wednesdays at 2 PM, from May 31 to September 6, 2017. Tours last about one hour. Space is limited to 10 participants, so please call (307) 344-2264 to reserve a slot.
The Heritage and Research Center is closed on all federal holidays and weekends including the following dates: December 26—January 2.
To access Yellowstone’s museum collections, researchers must complete and sign the following forms: Access Policy, Researcher Registration form, and Copyright Waiver. Anyone interested in obtaining reproduction copies in the form of one-time use digital files of historic images from the museum collections, please review the reproduction fee information. You may submit your request information and all forms electronically to Yell_Museum@nps.gov or mail the forms to
Yellowstone National Park
Last updated: May 11, 2017