While I was in the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne recently, I began wondering, “How many states have actual museums about themselves?” This turned out to be a hard subject to research, but I do have some results. There are between 30 and 35. Some are modest like New Hampshire’s. It’s in an old Woolworth dime store. Some states like Missouri and Pennsylvania have displays in their capitols but no stand-alone museums, yet. I say “yet” because I see a trend. In the last couple of years, Ruth and I have become aware of and been in several state museums, perhaps 20, and many of them were fairly new. The best ones are in Wisconsin, Illinois, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. All are 5 Compass.
Wyoming is celebrating its 125th birthday this year. Pioneer settlement followed the building of U. S. army forts all over what would become the state of Wyoming in 1890. The fort development years began in 1849, and they were primarily designed to protect telegraph and railroad lines. There weren’t many settlers settling in to stay. Still aren’t. In fact, Wyoming is the state with the smallest population. There are 150,000 more people in Alaska than there are in Wyoming. However, humans have been in the area for at least 11,000 years. This state’s Colby Site has yielded the remains of wooly mammoths, camels, and other animals that were clearly killed by human hunters that long ago.
What I especially liked about this state museum was its honesty and tendency to focus on what is truly unique about Wyoming. There were displays about its awful weather, the murder of Matthew Shepard, its lack of mineable gold, etc. One of the displays about its uniqueness covered “the most important mineral you never heard of”–trona, which is found in great quantities in Wyoming. Trona is used to produce glass, paper, baking soda, etc. and there’s enough of it here to supply the entire world’s need for the next 3,000 years. Wyoming also has lots of jade, so much that it’s called Green Gold.
Wyoming does have its firsts. The Devils Tower was the United State’s first national monument. Wyoming was home to the first female governor. It’s #1 in pronghorn antelope. More than half of these large animals, about 400,000 of them, live in this state. There’s a cool diorama showing them nesting, which was good because they can run 60 mph!
You can learn a lot about this underpopulated state in its museum. Having crossed Wyoming many times thirstily, I was surprised to learn that there are over 4,000 lakes, 25,000 miles of streams, and 78 fish species here. Sports-minded humans who don’t manage to catch a pronghorn antelope can go trout fishing instead. Wyoming is a premier destination for this.
ps. The item from the Wyoming State Museum pictured above is a horse mask. They’re designed to protect these valuable animals during battles.