Touring Wyoming’s Collections: New Wyoming Collections join the DPLA

Wyoming Historic Landscape Expands

The Wyoming State Archives and the Campbell County Rockpile Museum recently became partners of the Plains to Peaks Collective (PPC) sharing over 19,000 items with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). With these recent additions, there are now seven Wyoming institutions collectively sharing over 119,000 unique historic items with DPLA’s large audience of researchers, students, teachers and general history enthusiasts.

Campbell County Rockpile Museum

Image of the Rock pile and the Rockpile Museum sign. Courtesy of the Campbell County Rockpile Museum, 2018.050.0002.

New PPC partner the Campbell County Rockpile Museum’s collection focuses on local and regional history with an emphasis on the culture and people of Gillette and the Powder River Basin. If you’re not from Wyoming, like me, you may be wondering where the name Rockpile originated. The first four settlers in Gillette centered their claims near this now famous pile of rocks. This long standing landmark, located near the railhead of the Burlington & Missouri Railroad, let visitors know they had arrived in Gillette. The land that is home to the rockpile was donated to the county in 1970 and four years later the Museum opened.

The Rockpile Museum collection is vast with over 35,000 artifacts, photographs and archival items. Visitor highlights include the coal mining artifacts which help visitors gain a better understanding of Wyoming’s surface mining technique, or open-pit mining, as well as the land reclamation process. Coal mining began in the county as early as 1909 and remains a vital industry to Gillette’s growth. One staff favorite are the WWI letters found in the Museum’s archival collection. Readers can “get a real sense of the importance of family to these soldiers, how they were dealing with difficult circumstances, and how much they loved Wyoming.”

Letter from George Stewart to Winnie Torbert, 1918. Courtesy of the Campbell County Rockpile Museum, 2018.047.0003.

Like many institutions, the museum was closed to in person visitors for a short time this past spring. Thankfully they are back open with the new normal of social distancing in place. The museum staff is dedicated to adding collections to their online database so the public can always explore the collection.

Sharing our collections online is important because these collections belong to the people of Campbell County; we are stewards of these items, but the stories belong to the community. We hope to continue to engage people in the history of this region so we can continue to carry out our mission to collect, preserve, and educate about the Powder River Basin. Only a small percentage of collections ever go on exhibit, so having an online presence where we can share the complete collection and the stories behind these items is extremely important to all of the staff here at the Rockpile Museum.

Wyoming State Archives

New PPC partner the Wyoming State Archives collects and preserves the records that document the history of the state and the activities of Wyoming’s government offices. While they are the primary repository of state government records they are home to numerous non-government records as well that document aspects of Wyoming life. These include personal papers (letters, diaries, photographs, scrapbooks, writings, etc.), business records, and records of clubs and organizations.

The State Archives collections are an invaluable resource to those researching the life of early Wyoming pioneers and residents. Thankfully the Archives has made many of these collections available online. Of special note is the Wilkerson Biographies Collection – a series of biographies of Wyoming pioneers collected by Peter M. Wilkerson. Often handwritten these biographies detail aspects of an individual’s life including where they were originally from and their employment once they were living in Wyoming.

E. Amoretti – banker, merchant, and stock and sheep grower, – of Lander is a native of Italy, where he was born in 1839. He received a military education, but at the age of fifteen went to Central America and remained two years going thence to California and for the next twenty years devoted himself to mines and merchandise. In 1868, Mr A. came to Wyoming, opened a store in South Pass, and during the following year bought Carbon Mine of Mr. Custen for $34,000.

Another excellent online source of genealogical information is the Wyoming State Archives WPA Federal Writers Project Files Collection. The Federal Writers’ Project was created in 1935 as part of the United States Work Progress Administration to provide employment for historians, teachers, writers, librarians, and other white-collar workers. The State Archives collection compiled between 1935 and 1942 by Wyoming employees of the WPA Federal Writers’ Project and the Wyoming Historical Records Survey, contains 9,230 digital records. Much of the digitized content records the history of individuals including family lineage, employment information, biographical narratives and various field notes recorded by the WPA workers. Other digitized content in the collection includes the history of counties, municipalities, churches and military forts.

An interview with A. E. Ackley (PDF)
Wyoming WPA Biographical File regarding A.E Ackley. Courtesy of the Wyoming State Archives.

Sharing Made Easy

The PPC, the Colorado-Wyoming Service Hub of the DPLA, is one of only a few dual state hubs. We actively work to share the historic collections from both of our states. We are very excited about our new Wyoming partners and look forward to building more partnerships in the future. We strive to make the process of sharing collections with the DPLA as easy as possible. We hope that all of our partners feel the way staff at the Campbell County Rockpile Museum does.

The collections staff was surprised and excited that the process of sharing our collections with DPLA was extremely easy. We thought that the process would require a lot of changes to our catalog records, but we were happy to know that we could begin sharing our collections right away.

If you would like to share collections with the DPLA or if you just have questions about the program please contact me, Leigh Jeremias, at For more information about the PPC visit our website.