Many Chinese recently got their first taste of America’s wild, wild West thanks to a well-known museum in Wyoming and a convention in Fujian province.
Located just outside of Yellowstone National Park in Cody, Wyoming, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West was invited to join in the biennial 2014 Museums and Relevant Products and Technologies Exposition in Xiamen this year.
Started in 2004, the expo has become a top event in the world of Chinese museums and an important platform for foreign museums to introduce themselves in China. More than 300 museums from Asia, Europe and the US took part in the expo this year.
Described by the New York Times as “among the nation’s most remarkable museums”, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a complex of five museums and a research library featuring art and artifacts of the American West, brought exhibits including 19th century firearms, artifacts and lore of the pioneers and Plains Indians to the expo.
Stuffed animal specimens donated by US philanthropist Kenneth E. Behring – who has donated thousands of animal specimens to natural history museums throughout China, as well as the Buffalo Bill Center – were among the attractions.
Wearing a cowboy hat, Bruce Eldredge, the center’s executive director and CEO, described the museum to Chinese audiences at the expo.
“Many of them know little about the American West, but they are very fascinated by the history and culture,” said Eldredge, while handing out his business cards to Chinese museum representatives. “We are hoping to develop partnerships with museums in China and also promote the US to Chinese tourists who would like to visit Yellowstone National Park and our museum,” he said.
“I had only a limited knowledge of the American West and Indian culture from films and novels,” said Li Wen, a local college student in Xiamen. “It is so fascinating to see the museum represented at the expo.”
Founded in 1917 to preserve the legacy and vision of Colonel William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody, one of the most colorful figures of the American Old West, the Buffalo Bill Center is the oldest and most comprehensive museum of the West. It currently holds about 50,000 artifacts.
“Our museum is a very comprehensive museum that has arts, history and American Indian culture, so people from China can learn all about the Western part of US history just by coming to our institution,” said Eldredge. “We are already beginning to see more Chinese tourists to Yellowstone National Park, an hour drive to the west of Cody,” said Eldredge, “This past year we had probably 2,000 Chinese tourists come to our museum, and we are preparing to see more, as well as send our culture to China to help people understand the American West.”
Eldredge said there were plans for an exhibition on the Plains Indians to tour major museums in China and a number of projects to share natural history exhibits, art and photography.