The Yosemite Museum was one of the first established in the National Park Service, and its collection is one of the largest and most diverse in the National Park System. Its holdings include all manner of natural and cultural materials related to Yosemite and its environs. The collection now contains over 5 million items.
The ethnographic collection in Yosemite is one of the largest in the National Park Service. The collection contains the largest extant group of documented Miwok and Paiute materials from the region, and is the only such collection to contain materials dating from the 1880s to the present day. It is also unusual in that many basket weavers’ names are known. Yosemite's archeological collection is also of considerable significance, and includes assemblages central to establishing a regional chronological sequence, as well as some of the earliest materials found in the Sierra Nevada region.
The park archives contain over 3,000 linear feet of historic documentation, making it the fifth largest archival collection in the National Park Service. Collections include primary source materials in a wide variety of formats, typically paper, photographs, films, maps, plans, drawings and audio recordings. The archive also manages analog and digital recordings of enduring value. The collection contains unique and important manuscript materials related to Yosemite's history, including personal papers of James Mason Hutchings and Galen Clark, historic park administrative records, early concessionaire records, and numerous hotel registers. The Yosemite Park and Curry Co. donated their own archive of records, photographs and other documentary material to the Park's collection. Research use of the archives is allowed by appointment.
Photographs of the Yosemite area constitute a large and important part of the Museum's collection of historic material. The museum collection of over 40,000 photographs, albums, photographically-illustrated books, stereographs, negatives and lantern slides ranges from some of the earliest photographs taken of the Park to the work of contemporary visitors and artists. Additional paper materials include historic brochures and maps, chromolithographs and engravings, and other mass-produced publications related to the history of the Park. Other historic artifacts in the collection range from early firearms to wagons and historic vehicles and early souvenir items. The fine arts holdings of the Museum include significant works by Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill, Thomas Moran, Thomas Ayres and William Keith, as well as contemporary pieces.
A large herbarium of approximately 7,500 specimens is maintained by the Museum, as are vertebrate study skins, skeletal material, mounted entomological specimens, and specimens preserved in alcohol. Many of these biological collections were made by the Yosemite Field School or park naturalists during the early years of NPS administration of Yosemite.
The Yosemite Research Library, administered in conjunction with the Yosemite Museum, also focuses on the human and natural history of Yosemite. In addition to its circulating collections, the library holdings comprise 400 linear feet of rare book and pamphlet material, including early accounts of visits to the region; maps, pamphlets and ephemera related to park promotion and activities; dissertations, monographs and unpublished studies on park-related topics; oral history transcripts; and news clippings and articles on Yosemite topics. The library also administers a collection of over 18,000 negatives and copy photographs.
Material from the Yosemite Museum collection is displayed in the Indian Cultural Exhibit and Museum Gallery in Yosemite Valley, as well as at the Pioneer Yosemite History Center in Wawona. That portion of the collection which remains in storage is available for use by researchers on a year-round basis by appointment. Loans from the collection are made to institutions meeting NPS requirements for security and artifact preservation. The Research Library is open to the public Monday through Thursday throughout the year from 10 to 4, and is closed for lunch. Researchers expecting to make extensive use of the library collection should contact the librarian in advance of their visit.