Libraries and museums fulfill a vital role in society. They are the backbone of our cultural infrastructure and ensure all our state’s residents have equal opportunities to explore our past and analyze what is going on today in order to create a well-informed shared future. They support their local residents with creative and relevant programs and strengthen their community’s economy through cultural tourism. Our state’s libraries and museums frequently host Wyoming Humanities programs and are uniquely positioned to enable us to serve all 23 counties and 99 communities in our state.
In 1886 Wyoming’s Territorial Assembly passed what is believed to be the first county library law in the country to “promote the public welfare by encouraging the establishment of free public libraries.” Between 1899 and 1917, sixteen Carnegie Libraries were constructed (we were proud to partner with the Alliance for Historic Wyoming in its Cowboy Carnegies Campaign to document the history of Wyoming’s Carnegie libraries). Today there are 23 county library systems, 53 branches, and 2 bookmobiles. Because they are organized in every county, every resident of Wyoming has a library available to them.
During our five decades of serving Wyoming, we have partnered with every county library to host talks, book discussions, exhibits, and many other engaging programs. For over twenty years, our Reading Wyoming program mailed thousands of books all around the state and paid for discussion leaders to go to the libraries and host stimulating and challenging discussions about some of our greatest books. Now, rather than mailing books, we partner with the Wyoming State Library to ensure all libraries have adequate opportunities to host book discussions and we offer grants to libraries to create their own discussion programs based on the interests of their constituents. We love knowing that some of smallest towns, like Baggs and Story, are able to have the same quality conversations as those who live in our larger communities. And we love partnering with State Librarian Jamie Markus on our One Book Wyoming program to read Hemingway. We love our libraries!
Wyoming’s museums are some of the most preeminent in the nation. From the historic Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody to Jackson’s National Museum of Wildlife Art to the Brinton Museum in Big Horn to Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, there are dozens and dozens of museums of all sizes in Wyoming. The Colorado Wyoming Association of Museums lists 116 museums in Wyoming—and that doesn’t include many of our state’s smaller cultural gems. From the permanent Butch Cassidy exhibit at the Wyoming Territorial Prison to the two dozen museums that have hosted our five separate year-long Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street exhibits and programs, Wyoming Humanities has funded hundreds of permanent and temporary exhibits and companion programs in our state’s museums. We’ve hit every county and given every resident an opportunity to take a closer look at life through the unique learning experience that a museum can provide.
We can’t possibly list every amazing person with whom we’ve worked at the libraries and museums around the state. But let us say that they are some of the most creative, hard-working, passionate people you will find in your town. Many of them dust and vacuum before hosting a lecture or conducting a tour or helping you find the perfect book or resource. Please take the time to tell your local museum and library how grateful you are for them. I know we could not do our work without them and for that we are deeply and profoundly grateful.