These Noble Brutes: Engravings of the American Bison, 1749-1909
March 15-June 4, 2016
Explore the natural history of the bison, its centrality to Native American tribes, and its dramatic decline through vintage historic engravings (printed between 1749 and 1909), historic images and text. The exhibit is supplemented with artifacts from the WHC Collection.
In the Wind: Montana Motorcycle Memories
June 18-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.
History on Canvas: J.K. Ralston
March 15-September 1,2016
James Kenneth (J.K.) Ralston (1896-1987) was a noted western artist who lived in Billings for many years. This exhibit features original paintings and bronzes, including some never-before displayed early pieces from the WHC archive.
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.
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.