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.