When the Buffalo Bill Museum at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center reopens May 19 following a $2.75 million renovation and reinstallation, it will be showcasing the life and times of that classic Western character, Colonel William Frederick Cody, using some of the same techniques that the master himself used to engage his audiences 140 years ago. Those include liberal use of special effects and mass audience appeal.
On one point, however, Buffalo Bill the man and Buffalo Bill the museum diverge, at least a bit: historical accuracy. It wasn’t Buffalo Bill’s top priority when he conceived and staged his famous Wild West Show and took it on the road and overseas.
“The namesake of our town was a showman above all, and his theatrical presentations of life on the frontier were staged to appeal to absolutely everyone in his ever-growing audiences,” said Claudia Wade, director of the Park County Travel Council, the marketing arm for Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country. “Even though he personally experienced many important events during our country’s expansion to the West, in presenting those events, he embraced showmanship over accuracy.
The new Buffalo Bill Museum will focus exclusively on the storied life of the trapper, bullwhacker, Pony Express Rider, Colorado “Fifty-Niner,” wagon master, stagecoach driver, Civil War soldier, hotel manager and scout for the U.S. Army. It will include a “Storybook Garden” with life-sized cutouts; a “living projection” of the man; an interactive stage where visitors can use props and costumes to become characters in a Buffalo Bill play; a replica of the stagecoach that circled the Wild West Show arena; and more.
The Buffalo Bill Museum was the first of what is now five museums that comprise the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Visitors to the museum come from around the world to explore the Buffalo Bill Museum as well as the Draper Museum of Natural History, Plains Indian Museum, Firearms Museum and Whitney Museum of Western Art. Admission to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center is $18 for adults, $16 for seniors 65 and older, $13 for students, $10 for children six through 17 and free for children under six. The admission price includes visitation for two consecutive days.
Buffalo Bill Historical Center is typically one stop in a destination that also includes rodeo, entertainment, music, historical attractions, tours and extensive outdoor activities such as horseback riding, fishing and hiking.
Yellowstone Country is comprised of the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park.
The area of Park County is called “Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country” because it was the playground of Buffalo Bill Cody himself. Buffalo Bill founded the town of Cody in 1896, and the entire region was driven and is still heavily influenced by the vision of the Colonel. Today its broad streets, world-class museum Buffalo Bill Historical Center and thriving western culture host more than 1 million visitors annually.
The Park County Travel Council website (www.yellowstonecountry.org) lists information about vacation packages, special events, guide services, weather and more. Travelers wishing to arrange vacation can also call the Park County Travel Council at 1-800-393-2639.