Montana Attractions January 20, 2023
These 3 Montana Museums Are So Fascinating It’s Hard To Believe Admission Is Free
Montana spans 147,040 square feet between the prairie land, the 77 named mountain ranges that are part of the Rocky Mountains, and its 3,000 named lakes and reservoirs. Inside this wide-open space live more than 200 Montana museums with free admission, whose owners and volunteers are dedicated to the preservation of history and to sharing it with locals and visitors of the Big Sky Country. Its dynamic past — as the home of various indigenous peoples and American Indian tribes, such as Crow, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, and Gros Ventres; the fur trappers and traders; gold miners; soldiers; and settlers inhabiting the lands — gives ammunition for stories that grow through the imaginations of our toddlers to our beloved elderly. It also provides ample material, scooped up by the rigorous work of
historians, curators, documentarians, and storytellers — through which this great state survives. Here are three of the best Montana museums with free admission:
1. Yellowstone County Museum, Billings
The Yellowstone County Museum
was founded in 1953 and was opened to the public in 1956. It was founded through the combined efforts of Parmly Billings Library, the Yellowstone Historical Society, the Pioneers of Eastern Montana, the City of Billings, and Yellowstone County. The McCormick Cabin, the museum's authentic entrance, was built by Paul McCormick in 1893 for social gatherings. It was moved to its current location in 1954.
Yellowstone County Museum, 1950 Terminal Cir, Billings, MT 59105, USA
All aboard! This shiny "Old 1031," as it's lovingly known, was built in 1903 by the American Locomotive Co. It operated a long 700,000 miles in switching service on Yellowstone Division and Lake Superior.
It was moved on Nov. 16, 1956, and presented to the Yellowstone Museum and Pioneers of Eastern Montana by the Northern Pacific Railway, and dedicated in 1957.
Here, you will also find impressive collections and depictions of the American Indian tribes from the area.
One exhibit is The 1890 Ghost Dance, which displays a variety of objects used in a Ghost Dance, which are on loan from Billings native Larry Williams.
A related display is Miniatures by Robert McAnally, in which every piece tells a story.
McNally is an award-winning Native traditional artist and replicator, born and raised on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and a member of the Assiniboine Tribe.
Can you imagine dragging this heavy contraption along on an already arduous journey? The chuckwagon typically carried cooking equipment and food as settlers, cowboys, or loggers crossed the prairies. These would accompany a wagon train.
Other museum exhibits include Ledger Art by Darryl Growingthunder, Montana Prehistory, Coulson City Saloon, A Legacy of Bravery: The Story of Joe Medicine Crow, and a Firearms Museum.
2. Huntley Project Museum, Huntley
The Huntley Project Museum
is a success story of the Huntley Irrigation Project, unfolding its rich history of hard work and perseverance. It began operation on June 26, 1907, as a Bureau of Reclamation Project. The museum sits on 10 acres with hundreds of turn-of-the-century farm equipment and thousands of artifacts.
Huntley Project Museum, 770 Railroad Hwy, Huntley, MT 59037, USA
The handy boardwalk allows a peak into the past of how pioneers lived, with a First National Bank, a typical church, and a total of 18 homestead buildings.
The serene grounds create a great space for events, such as Civil War Live, which takes place every May.
This tipi was displayed during that event, which also features living historians and other depictions of life during that period.
Walk into the old school, an especially great resource for children to see how a classroom looked.
And one of the military displays honors local members of the armed forces.
3. O’Fallon Historical Museum, Baker
O'Fallon Historical Museum, 723 S Main St, Baker, MT 59313, USA
This lovely nurse pulls double shifts in the Block Building. In addition to the doctor's office, it features displays of the Lawler Drug store, the Economy Grocery, the L. Price Company Hardware Store, and a creamery.
In addition, you will unbelievably find dinosaur fossils and other fantastic artifacts here. Follow the nurse to see some of the other exhibits in this free Montana museum.
As home of "Steer Montana," recorded as the World’s Largest Steer, the museum receives many visitors just to see this display. He stays in the Fallon County Jail, which was built in 1916, and originally housed the sheriff's quarters and jail. Today it offers vintage rooms and military displays.
The steer was born on March 23, 1923, in a community near Baker and died 15 years and four months later. With a height of 5 feet 9 inches tall, a weight of 3,980 pounds, a girth of 9 feet 2 inches, and a length of 10 feet 4 inches, it is hard to imagine the effort that went into his owner, Jack Guth, taking him on tour around the country. Upon his death, Guth had him mounted, and continued touring! It was eventually donated to the O’Fallon Historical Museum.
As you can see, they aren't lying about his dimensions as his skeleton is also on display.
Another unusual piece of taxidermy you'll meet at this museum is this two-headed calf. You never know what you will find at one of the best museums in Montana.
The other exhibits include the Metal Building featuring historical machinery, buggies, a kid’s corner, and classic automobiles; the Willard School, the original country school from the Willard community; the Lambert House, an original homestead built in 1907; and the Forrest Duffield Museum, which was moved to Baker from the Fertile Prairie community. It is furnished with the Duffield family heirlooms from the late 1800s.
Are you ready to try out one of these three Montana museums with free admission? Find out more about museums in Montana, and if you visit some of them, please tell us about your trips in the comments below. And while you’re on the road, h ere are another 12 fun free things to do in Montana. Address: O'Fallon Historical Museum, 723 S Main St, Baker, MT 59313, USA Address: Huntley Project Museum, 770 Railroad Hwy, Huntley, MT 59037, USA Address: Yellowstone County Museum, 1950 Terminal Cir, Billings, MT 59105, USA
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