Smithsonian Affiliate Museum
2822 Montana Avenue
Billings, MT 59101
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The Western Heritage Center is a regional museum that interprets and reflects the life and culture of the Yellowstone River Valley. Located in downtown Billings’ historic Parmly Billings Library, the museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is a Smithsonian Affiliate.
A Mile in Her Shoes: Montana Women at Work
Most of the rights and opportunities women have today are possible because of the daring efforts of individuals from the past. All of these local women demonstrate that America was the training ground for transformation – learn their inspiring stories and see how they still inspire us today.
This exhibit shares new research highlighting the changing roles of women in the 20th century. Learn about Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, and Hazel Hunkins Hallinan, a Billings High School graduate, who lead the fight for the right to vote. View an original outfit of Calamity Jane, a resident of Billings in 1894, on loan from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Watch a film about some very unique women bronc riders. View unique clothing styles from the 20th century. See the art and stories of Evelyn Cameron, an Eastern Montana photographer, Ethel Hays, an illustrator of the flapper period, and Caroline Lockhart, a famous western writer and Bighorn Canyon rancher.
Echoes of Eastern Montana: Stories from an Open Country
This interactive exhibit will share stories of the people of the Yellowstone River Valley and Northern High Plains. Visitors can watch interviews, listen to amazing stories, read personal diaries, peruse family photo albums, copy favorite recipes, learn new Crow and Northern Cheyenne words, play interactive games, and hear local music.
People in communities as diverse as Wibaux, Colstrip, Laurel, Hardin, Forsyth, Harlowton and Billings tell compelling stories of sacrifice and struggle and offer lessons about leadership, home, and family. Come laugh at outrageous tales and discover the changing world of Eastern Montana.
Billings: The Railroads Shape our Town
Billings Montana is a railroad town. Since its inception in 1882, the history and share pf the town have been influenced by the railroads. Throughout Billings is evidence of the railroad's impact in planning, designing, and promiting the settlement of the region. This exhibit and short film illustrate how we can still see the impact of the railroad in Billings.
Dude Ranch Lobby
The museum’s lower gallery has been made over to replicate the lobby of a 1930s dude ranch lodge. Rustic western furniture, inspired by the designs of Thomas Molesworth, and a stone fireplace, provide the ideal setting to display paintings by James Kenneth Ralston, a regional artist inspired by the great stories of the West.
J.K. Ralston: History on Canvas
James Kenneth (J.K.) Ralston (1896-1987) was a noted western artist who lived in Billings for many years. In 1946, Ralston and his son built a log cabin to serve as the artist’s studio. In 2005, the cabin was moved to the Western Heritage Center and the cabin’s interior was restored to reflect his working environment. Ralston’s oil paintings and sketchbooks include scenes depicting his early years growing up on ranches and riding the range in Montana. He relied on family heirlooms and collected artifacts to help him create accurate depictions of famous western events. The Western Heritage Center merged with the J.K. Ralston Studio and now houses a significant repository of the famed artist’s letters, memorabilia and artwork.
American Indian Tribal Histories Project
The permanent American Indian Tribal Histories Project Exhibit provides visitors with an overview of Montana’s Native American tribes through maps, tribal flags and an explanation of their symbols, Crow and Northern Cheyenne tribal member oral histories and a chronology of the American Indian Tribal Histories Project, whose mission is to preserve and maintain American Indian tribal histories and culture.
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