McCracken Research Library

McCracken Research Library

The McCracken Research Library supports inquiry across many disciplines related to the American West.

McCracken Research Library reading room

The library reading room where scholars and visitors with appointments may conduct research.

With extensive collections of rare books, historic photographs, and original manuscripts, the library offers scholars direct contact with the materials of history. Through proper storage and the monitored use of archives, librarians safeguard the treasures entrusted to their care while making those resources available.

As Dr. Robert Martin, library adviser and former director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, has stated, “It’s all about learning.” We create, in his words “the synergies that facilitate learning.”

Our Mission

The McCracken Research Library advances the understanding, appreciation, and study of the American West and plays an integral role in the creation and dissemination of scholarship on the region.

—Adopted by the McCracken Research Advisory Board, September 21, 2006

Chromolithograph from a rare book

Chromolithograph from a rare book.

The McCracken staff collaborates with curators, scholars, students, writers, and filmmakers to reveal the American West in all its human and natural complexity. The last word on the West defines the mission—to preserve the written and visual record. As the stewards of many forms of expression, our library professionals understand how language and images have shaped perceptions. What Americans believe about the West is as significant as what actually happened in these storied landscapes.

“The Western history popular culture collection at the McCracken is unmatched anywhere in the world.”

—Dr. Paul Hutton, University of New Mexico

Mrs. White Elk. Huffman Collection. MS100

Mrs. White Elk. Huffman Collection. MS100


From its beginnings as a reading room in a log building, the library has grown substantially. Holdings include 30,000 books, more than 300 manuscript collections, and over a half-million photographs. Behind the scenes, large vaults store archives and photographs in a controlled climate. In the new reading room, rare books recount the experiences of early travelers with illustrations that often convey an imaginary version of the West.

Online Finding Guides

Find out more detail about the library’s collection by accessing our online Finding Guides.

Digital Initiative

More recently, the library has embarked on a digital initiative, contributing 20,000 images to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s website. Online visitors can search a suite of photographic collections and digital documents, conduct research, and submit orders for reproductions.

“The best work I’ve seen.” —Bud Lake, specialist, photography of the Crow Indians, on the Great Plains People collection.