Exhibits & Outreach » Current Gallery Exhibits

Briskly Venture, Briskly Roam: The Life & Legend of Yellowstone Kelly

September 15-December 17, 2016

Explore historic photographs, artifacts, and stories about the legendary guide and scout, Luther Sage "Yellowstone" Kelly. This exhibit gives you the rare opportunity to see a unique collection of historic photographs and items from Yellowstone Kelly's private collection including his hand-drawn map of Montana from the 1870s. There are also trading cards, movie memorabilia, and novels, that were key in creating the legend of Yellowstone Kelly.  The full display provides insights into Kelly's life and why his gravesite is located on Kelly Mountain in Swords Rimrock Park.

In the Wind: Montana Motorcycle Memories

June 24-December 17, 2016

Head out on the highway and explore the story of motorcycling in Montana. “In The Wind,” is the Western Heritage Center’s exciting new exhibit featuring vintage motorcycles, memorabilia, biker gear, photographs and advertising. Delve into the culture of the biker with vocabulary and phrases, motorcycle etiquette, and personal memories.

Echoes of Eastern Montana: Stories from an Open Country

Through December 19, 2016

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.

Who Owns the Yellowstone River?

Through December 19, 2016

Students from Bruce Wendt’s West High class took on the issue of water rights and asked the question, Who Owns the Yellowstone River? To learn how the river water is distributed, they reviewed the opinions and concerns of regional civic leaders, farmers and ranchers, recreationists, local historians, and residents with homes near the Yellowstone River. 

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: Studio Cabin

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. 

In Voice of the Curlew (J.K. Ralston Studio, Inc.:1986) Ralston is quoted as saying: 
"In looking back over the years, I must say the art game has been good to me.  It has been rewarding far beyond anything I ever dreamed of as a small boy living on ranch along the Missouri River.  Art was always the way I found to express myself and of the things that have meant so much to me and to my people.

I’m glad that the dice was so rolled out that to be a cowboy I was born.  I saw the curtain rung down on the last of the old time range business in Montana.  Like a lot of others, I hated to see it go.  Now it is history and I am very, very glad that I lived in time and to see and be part of it.

I have been drawing pictures as far back as I can remember and I have made it my life’s work to try and make the old west live on canvas."


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.