Exhibits & Outreach » Current Exhibits

America's Hotspot: The 1988 Yellowstone Park Fires

May 24 – December 29, 2018

Yellowstone National Park recorded their worst wildfire season in 1988. By November, 36% of the Park had burned, it had closed for the first time in its history, and the scars left behind instilled fear that our beloved ‘Wonderland’ would never look the same. The 1988 fires were covered by national and international media, and the local Billings Gazette was nominated for a Pulitzer prize for their coverage. Join us to look back at the season, hear stories of people who were involved and remember the impact that it had on our region.

Echoes of Eastern Montana: Stories from an Open Country

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.

Blackfeet Indian Tipis: Design and Legend

February 20 – August 25, 2018

The exhibit consists of silk-screen color reproductions of painted Blackfeet tipis recorded by Olga Ross Hannon and Jessie Wilbur during the summers of 1944 and 1945. The tipis prints and the associated Blackfeet stories, which were recorded by Cecile Black Boy in the 1940s, were put together in an exhibit format by the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, with funding from the Montana Arts Council.

Cows: Expressions & Impressions

The Art of Sonja Caywood

June 14 – September 29, 2018

Born in Sheridan, Wyoming, Sonja Caywood was raised in Montana (and later Wyoming) in a family ranching in the "old ways."  She grew up in the saddle, spending summers in Montana in tents and teepees with a mess wagon and a rope corral.  Sonja studied her environment, “Spending long days in the saddle as a child, I would "make pictures" by framing the landscape and livestock with my hands, long before I learned it was a composition tool.”  Immersed in nature, far from modern distractions, she learned to study and appreciate the world around her.  Livestock figures prominently in both Sonja’s memories and paintings. 

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.