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About the AHC

American Heritage Center

About the AHC

AHC Centennial ComplexThe American Heritage Center (AHC) is the University of Wyoming's repository of manuscripts collections, rare books, and the university archives. Many universities have primary source repositories. Few have repositories as extensive and significant as the AHC. More importantly, few universities have such repositories as welcoming and accessible to undergraduate and graduate students. Internationally known for its historical collections the AHC first and foremost serves the students and citizens of Wyoming. The AHC sponsors a wide range of scholarly and popular programs including lectures, symposia, and exhibits. Not a dusty attic or an exclusive sanctuary, the AHC is a welcoming, lively, place where both experts and novices engage with the original sources of history. Access is free and open to all.

The AHC was officially established in 1945. In the decades that followed, nearly 70,000 cubic feet of historically important documents and artifacts were acquired. The AHC is among the largest non-governmental archives in the nation, and between the Mississippi and the West Coast only the collections at the University of Texas— Austin compare in size and national importance.

AHC collections go beyond Wyoming’s or the region’s borders and support a wide range of research and teaching activities in the humanities, sciences, arts, business, and education.

  • Major areas of the manuscript collections include Wyoming and the American West, the mining and petroleum industries, Western politics and leadership, conservation, journalism, transportation, and 20 th century entertainment such as popular music, radio, television, and film. Like most major university repositories, the AHC collects both regionally and nationally in select areas.
  • The Toppan Library is the University’s rare book center. More than 55,000 items range from medieval illuminated manuscripts to the 21st century. Subject strengths include the American West, British and American literature, early exploration of North America, religion, hunting and fishing, natural history, women authors, and the book arts. Unlike most rare book libraries, it is an active teaching site.

The professional archivists and librarians at the AHC provide bibliographic instruction to over 80 UW classes annually, and work with UW faculty to develop projects for their students using AHC collections. The AHC, in fact, is used more actively by undergraduates than similar repositories at such renowned universities as Yale, Princeton, Michigan, and Texas. The AHC works with 40+ courses in 17 different departments at UW: Art, African-American Studies, American Indian Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, Geography and Recreation, History, Lab School, English, Music, Nursing, Pharmacy, Secondary Education, Sociology, University Studies, Women’s Studies, Zoology. The AHC also works with 60 public school classes annually.

Scholars and the public from across the nation and around the globe--annually from 48 states and a dozen nations (including Australia, Germany, Britain, Botswana, Brazil and Russia)--also access the collections of the AHC. The total number of researchers and long-distance reference requests each year exceed 6000. Plus, the reference staff and the rare books curator give over 100 public tours and informal public presentations.

The AHC is also home to educational programs like the Alan K. Simpson Institute for Western Politics and Leadership and the Wyoming History Day Program. Each year the AHC offers a variety of symposia, lectures, and exhibits that feature the AHC’s collections for both a scholarly and public audience.

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