Exhibits & Outreach » Current Gallery Exhibits

Current Exhibits

Secret Life of Artifacts: Native American Design 
Through December 20, 2014

American Indian tribes developed clothing and belongings unique for a life of hunting in the Northern Plains. Even though the items were made for mobility, they were rendered with colorful cultural and individualized colors, shapes, and meanings. This wonderful display of traditional beadwork, paintings, and objects highlight the finest of the Western Heritage Center’s collections.




Blackfeet Tipi Legends
February 4 - May 8, 2014

Peruse this unique combination of fifteen silk-screened, color reproductions of painted Blackfeet tipis, along with the stories of the origins of the designs used.








Montana Modern:  Exploring our State's Monernist Architecture 
February 12 through June 7, 2014

Developed by Montana’s State Historic Preservation Office, this exhibit interprets Montana’s Modernist architectural legacy with drawings, photographs and text panels.

Sponsored by A&E Architects and the Billings Architectural Association




 Echoes of Eastern Montana: Stories from an Open Country
Through December 31, 2014

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. 

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."

Photo: Billings Mayor Willard Fraser confers with James Kenneth Ralston in Ralston’s studio cabin, 1960s.  The cabin is now located on the grounds of the Western Heritage Center.

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.