A few weeks ago, our Tribe ventured in to Billings, MT to check out the Western Heritage Center. Located in the old Billings Library, the building has some beautiful architecture. The YWHC features local history, including the founding and subsequent boom of Billings.
Since we were on a family outing, I was delighted to find the museum was geared towards children and adults alike. The receptionist that met us was very cheerful and friendly. She interacted with the kids and told them about all the different things there was for them to do.
Ranching is ‘how the West was Won’, including right here in Billings. A western theme prevails through much of the museum. Just to the right of the entrance, there is a room dedicated to the history of weddings in the area. There is a log cabin in this room that is full of fun things for kids to play with: old school desks complete with McGuffy Readers, tons of dress-up clothes, an old cook stove with tea kettle and other cooking items, and a little log ‘doll’ house…
To the left of the entrance to the museum, there is an area that mimics a 50 kitchen, diner, and post office. There were so many hands-on things for the kids to do in this area, including games left out on the diner booth, and a huge monopoly-like game where the entire table was the gameboard; it spun like a lazy-susan, had huge foam dice, and toy horses for pieces. Adults would enjoy the 2 little rooms where there are comfy western chairs, and handsets where you learn about and hear about local musicians (one is a 50s pop star, and the other an older, local cowboy musician).
The kids had fun with the p.o. boxes in this section of the museum. They were old boxes with 2 dials for locks. You had to know which mark to line up at the top, on both dials, for the box to open. The museum had boards that gave the combinations to certain boxes, and the kids had fun opening them. The instructions would say something like, “Box 128 Right-2 marks to the right of L Left-one mark to the left of M”…
Online, the YWHC website offers a page of kids’ activities, including a replication of the Indian languages touch screen that is in this area of the museum.
After checking out the upstairs, we went down to the lower level of the museum, which has several different parts: there is a room dedicated to the railroad and it’s role in Billings, a hallway filled with paintings of current Montana cowboys complete with a poem for each one, and a lobby of sorts that is designed to look like a 30s dude ranch. There were places to relax and watch one of the two movies showing downstairs, there were checkers games, and toys for the kids to play with.
We enjoyed our short visit to the museum (you can check out more pics of our visit here). It was a great little outing for the kids, and would be a super stop for anyone who wanted to check out the local history while they are visiting southeastern Montana!
The museum is open Tues. through Sat., from 10 to 5. Admission is: Adults $5. Seniors & Students $3. Children (under 12) $1. Members are free
The Western Heritage Center is very affordable, and a great place for to spend a couple of hours!