The American Heritage Center is the University of Wyoming’s manuscript repository, rare books library, and official archives. The AHC is one of the nation’s biggest, busiest, and best non-governmental archival institutions in the nation: 1) AHC holdings total 75,000 cubic feet (or 18 miles) of manuscripts and archives and 60,000 rare book volumes; 2) AHC assists 5-6,000 researchers every year, from K-12 and undergraduates to senior scholars to documentary filmmakers, and users come from across the globe; 3) in 2010 the AHC received the highest honor possible in the archival profession, the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of American Archivists.
American Heritage Center holdings are not restricted to Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West (they encompass a handful of topical areas where they collect across the nation; e.g., the entertainment industry, economic geology, conservation, journalism, military history, and others), but they do have one of the premier collections related to the state and region. The collections include the records of ranches and dude ranches, oil and mining companies, industry associations and environmental groups; they hold the papers of business leaders and elected officials, Oregon trail pioneers, African American bull riders, and renowned UW professors. They hold approximately 1 million photographs of all types, including the collections Charles Belden, possibly the premier photographer of real cowboy life, Richard Throssel, whose fame rests on his photos and portraits of Native Americans, and the Swenson-Ludwig images, a longstanding Laramie firm noted for portraits and community scenes. They have maps, thousands of them, from the exploration of the Colorado River to early and recent highway maps. AHC collections of moving images are unparalleled, including home movies, political ads, promotional films, and more. AHC sound recordings include interviews with still-living pioneers in the 1950s on through their current ambitious project to gather the opinions of citizens, businessmen, and officials interested in the prospective Niobrara play. Their rare book collection has publications of the LDS church to rival those in Salt Lake City as well as early books describing the first explorations of what is now the US West and dozens of Western dime novels.
Overall, the Center is one of the areas of distinction at UW, and they welcome you to visit. Because their material is unique and irreplaceable, it does not circulate but instead is used in on-site reading rooms. The AHC is open Mondays 10am-9pm, Tuesdays through Fridays 8am-5pm. They are free and open to the public (even parking is free). No appointments are necessary. They are located in the distinctive Centennial Complex on the east edge of UW’s campus—the black, cone-shaped building near 22nd and Willet. You are invited to take advantage of their holdings; you need not have a “serious purpose,” only interest in or curiosity about Western history.
For more information, please visit: http://www.uwyo.edu/ahc/ .