Yellowstone’s Heritage and Research Center

Just outside the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, in Gardiner, Montana, is the recently completed Heritage and Research Center (HRC).

This state-of-the-art, LEED-certified structure greatly expands the park’s ability to warehouse, access, and care for its many and varied historic artifacts. (LEED=Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a certification program that recognizes forward-thinking, sustainable, and “green” building practices.)

Sally O'Neal at the Roosevelt Arch, North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
Sally O’Neal at the Roosevelt Arch, North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

The HRC houses the national park’s museum collection, archives, research library, historian, archeology laboratory, and herbarium.

Why The HRC Was Needed
Yellowstone, America’s oldest national park, has engendered an extensive volume of historic records, cultural and natural science specimens, archeological artifacts, and memorabilia. Tens of thousands of books and manuscripts and untold numbers of photographic images have been devoted to the park. Over the years, the collection had burgeoned, and storage and curation techniques and technologies had improved significantly. In building the 32,000-square-foot HRC, Yellowstone’s library and archives space increased 500 percent (from 1,642- to 8,017 sq. ft.) and its museum space increased 700 percent (from 1,206 to 8,906 sq. ft., including storage, processing areas, and offices).

What You’ll Find At The HRC
By the numbers, the Heritage and Research Center houses almost 3,000 linear feet of historic records, 90,000 photographic prints and negatives, 20,000 books and manuscripts, 300,000 cultural and natural science specimens, over 35,000 archeological artifacts and approximately 10,000 plant specimens. The building is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The library is open to the public and admission is free. The collection includes books, magazines, pamphlets, articles, and dissertations/theses relating to the history, culture, geology, animals, and plants of Yellowstone National Park. The library is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.; on Wednesday, it is open 9 a.m. until noon. Appointments are not necessary, but are recommended.

HRC curator holds an original watercolor-and-graphite sketch made by the renowned painter Thomas Moran, whose works were influential in Yellowstone being named America’s first national park.
HRC curator holds an original watercolor-and-graphite sketch made by the renowned painter Thomas Moran, whose works were influential in Yellowstone being named America’s first national park.

The archives are open the same hours as the library, but access is by appointment only. This extensive collection includes manuscripts, photos, maps, films, oral histories, administrative records, and scientific data documenting the natural and cultural resources of the park as well as its development and management. The records are rich in topics ranging from geophysics, geology, and ecology to archeology, tourism, and history.

The museum collection includes 5.3 million items documenting the cultural and natural history of the world’s first national park. These items were brought together after decades of storage in a variety of disparate and often inadequate facilities. The collections, with the exception of certain rare and fragile items, are accessible to researchers by appointment. While the HRC is not considered a gallery space, there are a few items on rotating display in the lobby.

The archeological laboratory is where a variety of cultural and natural history artifacts are studied and processed for preservation. It is not open to the public.

The herbarium is a facility devoted to propagation and understanding of the plants native to the Yellowstone area. It is not open to the public.

How To Visit The HRC
No special credentials are required to conduct research at the Heritage and Research Center.

If you are interested in touring the HRC, public tours are conducted during the high season (late May through early September). These tours are at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and are limited to 10 – 15 people. Advance reservations are recommended due to space limitations; phone 307-344-2264 and plan to arrive 15 minutes before your tour. Group tours can also be arranged based upon staff availability. ALWAYS call ahead for any changes in the schedule or visiting hours.

 

 

 

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