Robert Layle Nelson is the Founder of our Museums. Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1941, Mr. Nelson has been and continues to be a collector of "all things Western". There are approximately 14,000 books and artifacts in his collection, now exhibited in two public Museums; The Nelson Museum of the West (established 1998), and The Military Memorial Museum (established 2020).
Bob's grandparents were homesteaders west of Newcastle, Wyoming and his mother was raised on a Wyoming ranch, making him a third-generation Westerner. Upon graduation from Cheyenne High School in 1960, he attended Bethany College for three years, which set the stage for pursuing another passion (the art business) later in life. In the meantime, he transferred to the University of Wyoming to acquire his law degree.
Bob went on to practice law in Cheyenne for the next 26 years before retiring in 1993 to dedicate his time to other business interests and building and maintaining the Museums. Alongside his law practice, he opened Manitou Gallery in 1975 and started an auction in Great Falls, MT, which he sold in 2018. He successfully operated the gallery in Cheyenne, then along with his wife, Charla, expanded to Santa Fe in 2000. Ultimately, they owned/operated an annual auction, two galleries and a jewelry store (Manitou Galleries/Palace Jewelers), in Santa Fe, which they sold in 2021 to focus more on seeking collections, doing trade shows and operating the Museums.
A Wyoming big game hunter since the age of 14, Mr. Nelson began serious worldwide hunting in 1981. Since then he has hunted on every continent and has hunted in Africa numerous times. There are many examples of these wonderful animals displayed in the Museums, as he is as dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the world's wildlife resources as he is to the preservation of old West history. He fears that a true appreciation and awareness of the West and its rich heritage is seldom found in today's society and wants the public to be educated, impassioned and inspired by the displays and exhibits in the museum.
Along with his wife, Charla, Bob currently serves as President of the Museum board and serves on the Board of Bethany College as an advisory to the President. Together they have three children and nine grandchildren and are strong patrons of the many art and music programs and groups in Cheyenne.