I have mixed feelings about the Nelson Museum of the West. It’s got several excellent exhibits and historical items and gives visitors a detailed look into every aspect of the West, but one specific thing about the museum really annoyed me. I spent a good hour going through the exhibits. There is a lot to see and one hour doesn’t do it justice.
On the first floor, there are some pieces of Native American art on display, including textiles, sheaths, and shoes. There were also several different army uniforms used by soldiers in the west. They were organized in chronological order and labeled with the war or period they were worn.
Upstairs, there were more interesting exhibits. Guns typically used in the West were prominently on display, as were spurs, chaps, saddles, hats, and other items used by cowboys. There was also a display about Mexican cowboys, including sombreros, saddles, and spurs.
Another display honored Edward H. Bohlin (1895-1980), Hollywood’s finest saddlemaker. He made countless items for Western films during his life and outfitted stars such as Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and the Lone Ranger. Born in Sweden, he was obsessed with the cowboy way of life. In 1912 at the age of 17, he moved to Montana and learned some cowboy skills along with the English language. By 1920, he had his very own leather shop, and by 1922, he was living in Hollywood. The rest is history.
One special “room” displayed authentic artifacts used to decorate cattle barons’ homes and another displayed the furniture and some paintings by artist Burt Procter.
There were also some fun handmade models of a Wild West courtroom scene and gambling saloon.
Big Game Animals
So, you’ve read everything about the selected exhibits I wrote about, you’ve seen the photos I’ve posted, and nothing seems off, right?
Besides the grizzly bear, do any of these animals have anything to do with the West? Do they have anything to do with the United States? Not at all.
Overall, the museum was excellent. However, having the animals scattered throughout made it seem like more of a taxidermy museum. Also, the labels indicate the name of the hunter and most of them were shot by one man. The museum states that hunting is a major tradition of the West. That’s fine, but I think it would be a whole lot better if they focused on the actual purpose of the museum rather than display one man’s African hunting trophies (although they should keep the animals from the West).
Admission to the Nelson Museum of the West is US$5 per person. Children under 12 are admitted free. It’s open from May to October and is located at 1714 Carey Avenue in downtown Cheyenne.