Texas Tech University

Western Literature Exhibit Now Open at National Ranching Heritage Center

Cara Vandergriff

July 22, 2015

The Writers of the Purple Sage exhibit features more than 60 western writers who helped shape the image of the West.

Writers of the Purple Sage
Now on display at the National Ranching Heritage Center.

The National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech University recently opened a new exhibit, Writers of the Purple Sage, that will make a collection of Western and ranch-related works available to the public. The exhibit features more than 100 books, both fiction and non-fiction, focusing on the history and lifestyle of the American West.

The collection, named after Zane Grey's famous novel “Riders of the Purple Sage,” consists of western-genre books by noted authors such as Louis L'Amour, Larry McMurtry, Max Evans and Stephen King. Many of the collection's works are first-edition, signed manuscripts.

Robert Tidwell, curator of the National Ranching Heritage Center, said the collection exemplifies how important western literature is to the greater scope of American literature.

“All the writers featured are people who have made some kind of mark in the genre of western writing,” Tidwell said. “It's not just that these are important people, but the pieces that we highlight are, in themselves, very important pieces of literature.”

The collection includes a wide variety of works such as a series of cowboy songs from the late 19th century that, until published, were only passed down through generations by word of mouth.


“Without that book, we wouldn't have some of the iconic cowboy songs we continue to enjoy today,” Tidwell said.

The books featured in the collection allow readers a chance to experience the American West as it once was.

“You really get a sense and feel for just how rich and deep the genre is,” Tidwell said. “You start to see this kind of western writing appear, and it just grows and develops and becomes mature, soon becoming an irreplaceable part of American literature.”

The National Ranching Heritage Center is located at 3121 Fourth St. and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.