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The Western Heritage Center strives to engage in activities that bring about a deeper understanding of our region and a broader appreciation for its people. Our mission is to collect, preserve and tell the stories of the people and places of the Yellowstone River Valley and the northern High Plains region. We do this by implementing comprehensive arts and humanities projects, programs and exhibits based on broad regional interest and need.
Geographically, the Western Heritage Center serves an area defined by the 72,000 square miles of the Yellowstone River watershed, which includes much of eastern Montana, northern Wyoming, and the western reaches of North Dakota.
The Western Heritage Center is located at 2822 Montana Avenue, Billings Montana. The museum is housed in the historic Parmly Billings Memorial Library building, first constructed in 1901. Our building is a Romanesque sandstone structure and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Western Heritage Center is one of six Montana museums accredited by the American Association of Museums. As an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, we adhere to national exhibit and archival standards.
Incorporated in 1971, the Western Heritage Center began as a community center to display a private collection of western artifacts. Over the years, it has grown to include nationally recognized education and outreach programs, long term exhibits with interactive components, traveling exhibits, a vast collection of historic artifacts, fine art, textiles, photographs and memorabilia and climate controlled archival storage.
The strength of the Western Heritage Center lies in its ability to reach out to local, state and national partners throughout the region it serves. Recent regional collaborations include the Yellowstone Heritage Partnership, Yellowstone Museums Partnership, and Museums Association of Montana. Because of its outreach and these collaborations, the Western Heritage Center is considered a leader in community dialogue.
In 2001, the Western Heritage Center received the Montana Governor's Humanities Award. It is the second organization to receive this honor, which is usually given to individuals.
The museum is governed by a Board of Directors of 15 members who serve three-year terms and meet monthly. Board officers are elected for one year terms at an annual meeting. Recently, the board adopted the AAM Code of Ethics to serve as the museum’s ethical guidelines and a strategic plan through 2015.
Many individuals from the Crow, Northern Cheyenne tribes generously gave their time, memories and knowledge so that priceless stories could be recorded and retained before it is lost. We gratefully thank them for their efforts and give these educational resources in their honor. These interviewees shared stories from their personal and cultural histories in order to preserve this important history, educate the public, and to promote understanding. We urge our web users to approach these materials in the same spirit. We provide these resources to students, teachers, researchers, and the general public for educational purposes. To help ensure proper use of the archive, the Western Heritage Center requires a free registration process to gain access to the archive.
For more information, please click on Register for the Archive.
Learn Native American Languages
Learn some Northern Cheyenne or Crow words with this interactive program!
The Between Rims & River coloring book will introduce you to people, places, and events that shape our lives and community today. Enjoy!
Billings, Montana turned 125 years old in 2007. Yet we know people lived in this area for thousands of years. In some cases, they left their stories in the form of paintings on rock walls. In some instances, we have seen the photographs, artifacts, letters, diaries and books. In other cases, we have heard stories told by elders, parents, grandparents, and other family members. All of these stories are reflected in our city’s history.
The flag activity page describes the U.S. flag and three of Montana’s American Indian tribal flags: the Crow Nation, the Northern Cheyenne and the Chippewa Cree. These are the three tribes that the Western Heritage Center worked with to produce educational materials, exhibits and an oral history archive collection, through its American Indian Tribal History Project.
Kids learn that people choose the symbols, pictures and colors that are meaningful to them as a country or a tribe when creating a flag that represents them. This idea is then taken one step further, and the child is encouraged to think about their own life and choose the symbols, pictures and colors that are important to them to create their own flag.
Architecture Scavenger Hunt
Print out the Architecture Scavenger Hunt and bring it to the museum on your next visit.
Utilize this Teacher Resource Guide prior to your visit to the Western Heritage Center. This guide will provide you with activities, curriculum suggestions and instructions to share with your students.
Teacher Resource Guide
I Spy! Treasure Hunt (appropriate for pre-school students)
I Spy! Treasure Hunt (appropriate for students K-3)
I Know! Treasure Hunt (appropriate for students 4+)
Other Supplementary Activities:
Calamity Jane Coloring Page