Incorporated in 1971, the Western Heritage Center began as a community center displaying a private collection of western artifacts in the historic library building. We’ve added outreach programs and walking tours, changing interactive exhibits, a collection of 35,000 historic artifacts and photographs, nine traveling exhibits, and over 400 oral histories. The museum strives to incorporate original research into all its exhibits and programs. The Western Heritage Center is one of six Montana museums accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. A former affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, we adhere to national exhibit and archival standards. We are especially grateful for the support of Yellowstone County and its taxpayers and recognize and are thankful to our museum members and sponsors of our programs and exhibits.
Our mission is to collect, preserve, and share the stories of the people and places of the Yellowstone River Valley and the Northern High Plains. The Western Heritage Center staff, board, and volunteers are engaged in offering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the people, places, and historical events of Montana. We do this by implementing comprehensive arts and humanities projects, programs, and exhibits based on broad regional interest and need. We also reach out to local, state, and national partners. We’ve recently collaborated on projects with the Mountain Plains Museum Association, Billings Chamber of Commerce, Billings Cultural Partners, Healthy By Design, Montana Historical Society, the Billings Depot, Billings Rotary, Museums Association of Montana, Billings Parks and Recreation, Yellowstone National Park, and many more.
The museum is located at 2822 Montana Avenue in downtown Billings and housed in the Parmly Billings Memorial Library building (built in 1901). The building is a beautiful Romanesque sandstone structure with twin towers, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We serve an area defined by the 72,000 square miles of the Yellowstone River watershed, including much of south-central Montana, southeastern Montana, and northern Wyoming. The Western Heritage Center is a recipient of the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award – only the second organization to receive this honor which is usually given to individuals.
The museum is governed by a Board of Directors of 10 members serving three-year terms who meet monthly. Board officers are elected for one year terms. Recently, the board adopted the AAM Code of Ethics to serve as the museum’s ethical guidelines. The museum has a staff of six and a dedicated core of volunteers and interns.