University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center is a trove of American history hiding in plain sight

 

By IKE FREDREGILL

The University of Wyoming American Heritage Center takes hoarding to new heights.
A public repository with thousands of collections, the center is somewhat of a storage facility for the nation’s most notable, AHC Reference Archives Specialist said.
“People bring in their papers — diaries, newspaper clippings, sketches, just about anything really — or their families do, and we store them and make them available to the public,” Glantz explained. “We keep primary source materials.”
Often used by writers for research, the primary source materials help people create detailed depictions of their subjects. While Glantz said the bulk of AHC’s collection is likely physical pages, the repository has a lot more to offer than just Stan Lee’s original sketches — you read that right, that Stan Lee.
“We have Hopalong Cassidy’s wife’s saddle, and we have the Cisco Kid’s saddle, too, and quite an extensive Duncan Renaldo collection,” Glantz said. “Barbara Stanwyk? We have all her awards, even her honorary Oscar. We have every script from every movie she ever made. It’s things like that. Things that make up a person, or at least the ones they believe do.”
A large portion of the collection revolves around the entertainment industry, in part, by design. In an attempt to promote the AHC, the center’s director orchestrated a hype campaign in Hollywood and many A-listers viewed donating personal effects as a status symbol, Glantz explained.
“People come from all over the world to conduct research here,” she said. “We had one writer from Poland come in during the time of the Total Solar Eclipse in 2017. He was writing a book about someone and used our collection to do his research.”
When the author completed the book, he sent a copy to the AHC, and it, too, is now part of the collection. A few years ago, a couple was on a cross-country road trip and stopped at the AHC to view a first-edition print of the Book of Mormon, Glantz said.
“We have a really great climate-controlled facility and many of collections are donated just for that,” she said, explaining the climate-control helps preserve the materials.
Additionally, companies such as Taco Johns and politicians such as Alan Simpson have donated entire histories — political and corporate — to the repository as a way to ensure their legacy is protected.
It all started more than a 100 years ago with Grace Raymond Hebard, a UW faculty member, administrator, librarian and Wyoming historian, according to AHC documents. Hebard collected documents and artifacts from Wyoming’s pioneers, and her research on the history of Wyoming became the founding principle of the AHC.
Established in 1945, the AHC has acquired nearly 70,000 cubic feet of historically important documents and artifacts, making it one of the largest non-governmental archives in the nation.
Nearly 50 years later in 1993, the archive was moved into the UW Centennial Complex, 2111 Willett Drive, a spectacular dome-shaped structure that houses the UW Art Museum.
Whether you’re looking for incredibly rare books, forgotten TV ad campaigns or oral histories, you’ll find yourself lost in a flood of primary source material at the AHC.
If waiting until you can see it in person isn’t your style, large portions of the collection are available via the AHC digital collections as well.
If all trails end in Laramie, you’ll find the trailblazers’ journals and maps at the AHC.