The Mountain West in Pop Culture

From the wild west to giant airplanes and the Las Vegas strip, Mountain West has it all. This week we want to point out which collections to peruse if you’re looking for wild stories, movies, monsters and more.

Here’s a highlight of some of the most poppin’ cultural heritage collections in our library.

Buffalo Bill/Wild West traveling shows

A wild west battle reenactment involving horses an riders chaotically racing around a field.

Mountain West hosts more than 70 awesome collections from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Their records include the photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, and ephemera surrounding the true history of Buffalo Bill and the spirit of the American West. These are the real people and events that have inspired countless stories and movies.

Speaking of movies…

Movies Made in Utah

Scene of the meeting at the rails in Paramount’s Union Pacific.

The Movies Made in Utah collection boasts 49 behind the scenes still images of classic western cinema, including Paramount’s “Union Pacific” and MGM’s “Billy the Kid”. Unfortunately it doesn’t include info about movies that are yet to be made, such as “The Bear Lake Monster”.

Luckily, we’ve got you covered!

A painting of the serpentine Bear Lake Monster approaching the shore of the lake.

The Bear Lake Monster collection hosts a plethora of records pertaining to the Bear Lake monster, an infamous prank and local legend surrounding the lake in Northern Utah/Southern Idaho. This collection comes to us from Utah State University which, in Logan, UT, sits just an hour away from the monster. It’s quite common for summer cabins and homes around bear lake to boast felt recreations of the scene above, or some other reference to this popular legend. 

Welcome Home, Howard!

The Spruce Goose floating atop the water before its flight.

The fabulously successful business magnate and record setting aviator and aircraft designer, Howard Hughes’s personal story is as much a part of the popular culture of the west as his films. RKO, Hughes’s production company produced classic films like Scarface and The Racket!. Meanwhile Hughes designed the largest aircraft ever flown (by wingspan). Though it only ever embarked on one flight, the story of the spruce goose is still taught in schools today. Through the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Mountain West has more than 800 records pertaining to Howard Hughes. Many of these can be read about in detail in UNLV’s wonderful digital exhibit, “Welcome Home, Howard!”.

Showgirls Collection

Pair of ballet-style dancers in white leotards with turquoise tights, capes and headpieces.
The Las Vegas Showgirl, and the shows which exemplified them, have a history all their own. From the distinct theatrical traditions of burlesque, vaudeville, dance and music halls, the French cancan, comic opera and operetta, Broadway, speakeasies and nightclubs, and movies, came a cosmopolitan adult entertainment popular in New York, Hollywood, Paris, Miami Beach, Rio, and ultimately Las Vegas. These records exhibit the designs and photographs that went into the colorful shows of quintessential Las Vegas.

Reno Street Art

This mural depicts a large brown octopus mixed with peacock feathers and a human-like figure.
Just as colorful is Reno’s thriving street art scene, which the University of Nevada, Reno exhibits in this collection featuring hundreds of pieces created during competitions and festivals. Some of the murals date back as far as the 90s, though more are from recent years.Some are political statements. Some masterpieces. Some graffiti. All of them add to the vibrant atmosphere of both Reno’s streets and our collections. 

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