Archived Exhibits

Montana's Territorial Legacy: The Montana Historical Society
May 2014 - April 2015

Montana's Territorial Legacy: The Montana Historical Society, is a celebration commemorating 150 years of the Montana Historical Society.  The Montana Historical Society was formred by the first Territorial Legislative Assembly, and the Territory and MHS grew up together.  The Montana Historical Society is the oldest instituion of its kind in the American West.  It was founded in 1865 by a group of farsighted pioneers who believed that future generations would someday be interested in the newly formed territory's early history.  Today the Montana Historical Society is a world-renowned institution that attracts visitors and scholars from across the state, nation, and world, who are interested in the history of Montana and the American West.

Montana's Mining Frontier:
Then and Now Fall - Spring 2014-2015

An exhibition of Vintage Engravings & Contemporary black and white photographs, produced by Lee Silliman

This dual medium exhibit explores Montana's frontier mining culture. Almost one half of the images are vintage, original engravings published over a century ago in the popular press, while the other portion are contemporary black and white photographs by Lee Silliman, focusing upon mining remains still extant from the historical period. These handsome engravings, from publications such as Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, illustrate the methodologies and social conditions under which the fledgling mining industry operated. These artists used their skills and imaginations to vividly portray life in the mining regions. Juxtaposed against them are contemporary contact print photographs of Montana's mining remnants that have survived to contemporary times. These antique engravings and modern photos, in concert with their annotations that set the historical context, are to make an attractive union of art and history.

Mastery in Bronze: Selections from the Bob Scriver Collection
(through September 11, 2014)

This exhibit featured the work of artist Robert "Bob" Macfie Scriver (1914-1999). This year marks 100 years since Bob Scriver's birth on August 15, 1914, and this exhibit celebrated his artistic mastery.

Dora's Laundry
(through July 31, 2014)

Between 1909 and 1923, Dora Linebarger ran a booming laundry business in Montana.  Today, her ledger books have remained to tell the stories of those who had their laundry done - names marked on clothing to return it later, seasons of life - diapers appearing, and frugality in the pairs of socks that were still washed long after their mate had worn out.

Domestic Economy: Managing the Home 1890-1920
(through June 26, 2014)

As men and women homesteaded across Montana, they worked to make a new start.  Women were expected to manage the household - working to make these dwellings, often shacks, homes.  Everything needed to make these rooms homes would fall on her shoulders.  Meal planning and food preservation, making, laundering, and storing clothing, and caring for any sick children and family would have to take place under her supervision.  Domestic Economy would encompass all of these parts of her daily life.

And the Bride Wore: Montana Weddings, 1900-1960
(through May 8, 2013)

Weddings are both profoundly personal and intensely public, reflecting every couple's own wishes and the times and culture in which they live.  Throughout Montana history, couples have wed in large community celebrations and small family gatherings, in formal church ceremonies and simple courthouse proceedings, in fancy outfits and everyday dress.  "And the Bride Wore," examined how history has shaped weddings - and particularly wedding fashion - during the first half of the twentieth century.

An Artist's Journey: The Life and Works of E. S. Paxson:
(September 6, 2012 – Spring 2013)

The Montana Historical Society exhibit An Artist’s Journey: The Life and Works of E.S Paxson features a comprehensive look Edgar Samuel Paxson's work. Paxson was born April 25, 1852, in East Hamburg, New York. His early education was at Webster Corners, now called Orchard Park, New York.

Paxson's talent for painting and drawing emerged early. At age nine he became an apprentice to a "scenic painter", who designed and painted backgrounds, stage wings, and curtains for theater productions. The skills he learned during his apprenticeship aided his ability to make a living in Montana, first in Deer Lodge (1878-1880) and then in Butte (1880-1906) as a commercial artist.

In 1898 the Spanish American War interrupted Paxson's career - at the age of 46, he volunteered for service along with Harry, his 17-year-old son, and Robert, his brother. A year later, in the Philippines, Paxson contracted malaria.

Abroad a ship en route home, he suffered injuries when a wave struck him and threw him against a spar. He never fully recovered.

In 1906 Paxson and his family moved to Missoula where he lived until his death in 1919.

Winchester Lever-Action Rifles: Iconic Firearms of The American West
(May 25, 2012 through Feb 2, 2013)

The Montana Historical Society exhibit Winchester Repeating Rifles: Iconic Firearms of the American West features long arms of the nine different models introduced by the New Haven Arms Company and its successor, the Winchester Repeating Arm Company, from 1860 to 1895. The exhibit offers the visitor the chance to see and compare these fine examples of the gun maker’s art. The past owners of many of the guns are identified, such as Kootenai chief Aeneas’ who owned the Model 1873 rifle and William Sheard, Livingston fur trader and merchant, who owned the Model 1886. In addition to the rifles and carbines on display, the exhibit includes a rare 1880s cartridge display board with more than 120 kinds of rifle, pistol, and shotgun ammunition.

The Art of Story Telling: Plains Indian Perspectives
(Dec. 1, 2011 through fall of 2012)

For countless years Plains Indians have chronicled their histories in magnificent graphic pictorial styles. Powerful images carved in, or painted on, rock marked historical events and visions. Narrative scenes painted on buffalo robes, hides, and tips chronicled men’s personal exploits and feats—memorializing and making public their heroic deeds. This exhibit features stunning and powerful, and fascinating works of art from the Montana Historical Society’s collection along with the special addition of the magnificent Walter Bone Shirt Ledger Book which is generously on loan from the Mansfield Library. In these works, often the meaning of the artist’s intent is clear but equally often the original meaning remains an enigmatic mystery.

Photographing Montana 1894-1928: The World of Evelyn Cameron

For more than thirty years spanning the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Evelyn Jephson Cameron photographed the landscape, wildlife, and people of eastern Montana. Evelyn took thousands of photographs of her world?the rural life, badlands, and ranch characters of the real west. Over 40 large format prints made from Cameron's original glass-plate and nitrate negatives are featured in this exhibit, which is based on the book Photographing Montana by Donna Lucey, a former editor with Time-Life Books. Both in Lucey's book and in the exhibit, Cameron's own words? culled from 30 years of her diaries and biography?are used to reveal Evelyn's personal feelings behind her photographs. Photographing Montana offers an intimate view of rural life on the Northern Plains.

Land of Many Stories

2010 will mark the centennial of Glacier Park, and the Montana Historical Society, in collaboration with Glacier National Park-National Park Service, has mounted a major exhibition illuminating one of Montana's cultural and natural wonders. The traveling exhibit - paralleling the theme and content of the major exhibition displayed concurrently at the Montana Historical Society - is comprised of reproductions of historic photographs, graphics, and accompanying interpretive text. The exhibit explores the many ways people have used and enjoyed the area from pre-European contact to present day, and will illustrate though much has changed over the years a great deal remains the same for today's visitors. People still enjoy Glacier's magnificent pristine wilderness following the same routes as those who have traveled before. This exhibit is produced in partnership with Glacier National Park and is made possible by the generosity of the Glacier National Park Fund and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation.

To view e-tour versions of the exhibit Land of Many Stories please visit Glacier National Park's website.

For a Casual Tour click here. For an Interactive Power Tour click here.

Splendid was the Trail
December 8, 2005 - February 28, 2006

Photographs of the National Forest by K. D. Swan. A Harvard-educated Easterner, Swan arrived in Missoula in the summer of 1911 to begin a job with the newly created Forest Service. Although trained as a forester, his work eventually led him into public information. Through his pictures and many public presentations, Swan revealed the unique beauty of remote wild places in Montana, Idaho and the Dakotas. This traveling exhibit-which was produced by the Northern Region of the U.S. Forest Service in observance of that agency's 100th anniversary-reflects both Swan's artistry as a photographer and his mission of promoting the value of public lands. For more information visit:

To Picture a People
May 16,2005 - February 28, 2006

Part of an ongoing series of temporary exhibits mounted in observance of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, this show highlights portraits of Montana's first inhabitants-the Native Americans who remained largely unseen by Lewis and Clark, but who have captured the imagination of artists ever since. Although motives varied from artist to artist, and styles changed to fit evolving aesthetics, the continuing efforts of these painters and sculptors over the last two centuries have combined to form a rich and colorful legacy of images depicting Indian peoples and their cultures.

Painting the Corps: Artistic Visions of Lewis and Clark
January 2005 - November 2005

Painting the Corps: Artistic Visions of Lewis and Clark, provides a colorful look at how artists have depicted this pivotal event in American history. This exhibit - which is the latest in a series of shows mounted in observance of the bicentennial of Thomas Jefferson's Corps of Discovery - includes both contemporary works created expressly for Painting the Corps, and historic works from the museum's permanent collection. Don Prechtel - who is widely noted for his expertise in art relating to military history - helped organize the show by recruiting eight of his colleagues as contributors to the show. An artists' reception will be held for the general public in August 2005 during the Western Rendezvous of Art.

Montana Botanical
June 3, 2004 - November, 2004

Since the time that humans first inhabited Montana, people have depended upon the Treasure State's diverse plant life as a source for food, medicine, and building materials. In addition to relying on plants for these necessities, however, Montanans have also frequently turned to the local flora as an important component in the art they created, employing plants as both a subject matter and as a medium. Montana Botanical presents a small cross sampling of the many ways in which artists working under the Big Sky have transformed these essential elements of the region's natural beauty into works of art.

Watercolors by Montana State University's first art professor, Frederica Marshall, will compliment the exhibit. Montana adopted Mrs. Marshall's depiction of the bitterroot as the state flower. The exhibit includes numerous other works featuring, and composed of, plants.

Youth Discover the Lewis and Clark Expedition
October 2003-May 15, 2004

For almost 200 years artists, both amateur and professional, have created artistic representations of the Corps of Discovery. Because the art of photography had not yet been invented when the Corps of Discovery left St. Louis, Meriwether Lewis resorted to artwork to record what he saw. Since then many others have used various media oils, clay, charcoal to depict Lewis and Clark triumphs and misfortunes.

In commemoration of the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Montana Historical Society solicited artwork from Montana's school children in grades kindergarten through 12. The art created represented episodes from the Corps of Discovery journals, landscapes of Montana in 1804-1806, oral histories from tribes, or the contributions and impacts of the expedition to 19th century science, geography, and exploration. The illustrated episodes must have occurred in the geographic region now known as Montana. Each student composed a statement on how the artwork relates to the expedition, and included a quote from the journal if they interpreted a specific episode.

L. A. Huffman: Photographer of the West
October 2003 - April 24, 2004

Laton Alton Huffman (1854-1931) came to Fort Keogh, Montana, in 1879 as post photographer, and later operated photographic studios in nearby Miles City. Huffman - who also spent time ranching - dubbed the 1880's as the golden era of the cowman. While he had a special interest in documenting the "picturesque industry" of cattle ranching, Huffman also took exceptional photographs of Cheyenne and Crow Indians, military life, the slaughter of the buffalo, and the Custer Trail Expedition in 1916. L. A. Huffman: Photographer of the American West featured a wide variety of vintage prints and related memorabilia documenting all aspects of this remarkable photographer's career.

F. J. Haynes: Photographer
1983 - 2003

The life and work of the official photographer for both the Northern Pacific Railroad (1884-1904) and Yellowstone National Park (1887-1916) was portrayed in this 4,000 square-foot exhibition. In addition to photographs, cameras and related equipment, F. J. Haynes: Photographer featured artifacts related to both Yellowstone National Park and the National Pacific Railroad like a Yellowstone stagecoach, furniture from the Canyon Hotel, and a 1930s touring car. The exhibit also included several vignettes that recreated a photography studio (1879), a train station (1904), and a Yellowstone gift shop (1930s).

An Honest Try: Rodeo Bronzes By Bob Scriver
2002 - 2003

Robert MacFie Scriver was born on Montana's Blackfeet Reservation, where his family operated a mercantile company in the community of Browning. Growing up amid vast plains and "shining" mountains, the young Scriver was influenced by the geography, people, and animals of the Glacier Park area, as well as by the romance of the Wild West. As an adult, he devoted his considerable talents to music and taxidermy before becoming one of the nation's most celebrated sculptors of Western life.

Largely self-taught, Scriver opened the first major exhibition of his sculpture at his studio in Browning in 1961. This initial showing received critical acclaim. Increasing national recognition soon followed, along with an ever-growing audience of admirers and collectors.

Although Scriver began his sculpting career by focusing on wildlife-a subject that represented a natural progression from his taxidermy work-in 1968 the artist's efforts headed in a new direction. In that year Scriver received a commission from the Rodeo Cowboys Association to create a heroic-size statue of the legendary Bill Linderman for the Rodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Scriver's enthusiasm for that project ultimately led to the creation of an entire series of bronzes depicting the events, activities, and personalities of professional rodeo. His admiration for the daring men and women of the rodeo culminated in 1975 with the publication of his book An Honest Try: An Essay in Bronze. The exhibit featured 25 rodeo bronzes and 35 historic photos of Montana rodeos.

Documenting the Corps of Discovery
January 2003 - September 2003

The exploration of the Louisiana Purchase by the Corps of Discovery, led by Captains Lewis and Clark, resulted in one of the most thoroughly documented and extensively interpreted investigations of unknown territory, ever. This five-part exhibit highlighted the extraordinary Montana Historical Society collection of primary documents, interpretive resources, art, and artifacts about the Corps' journey. Maps, documents, journals, artwork, and pop culture illustrate the exhibit. A traveling version of this exhibit is available for booking.

F. Jay Haynes: Fifty Views

These fifty views are taken from the Haynes Collection, which illustrate the development of the upper Midwest and the Northwest from 1876 to the turn of the century. Haynes was the official photographer for the Northern Pacific Railroad and for Yellowstone National Park. Through photographs he hoped to encourage immigration into the region and also to provide views of the area's scenic splendors both to visitors and to those eager to see the wonders they could not visit. The exhibit begins with images of Haynes' early career in the Dakota and Montana Territories; it continues with views of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska; and concludes with Yellowstone, the area of Haynes' most abiding interest.

A Capital Capitol

The Montana Historical Society celebrates the State Capitol's 2002 centennial with a traveling exhibit that documents the building's colorful history. This exhibit explains the unique history and aesthetics of the people's house with 31 framed vintage and contemporary photos. The photos show the Capitol throughout its lifespan, from construction to renovation, and give a sense of the state' territorial history. The exhibit includes interactive, hands-on panels that bring the Capitol to life for people of all ages.

Treasure State Treasures

Montana is a unique place with an exceptionally colorful past. The exhibit is designed to delight viewers with spectacular remnants of this past and features a wide array of items from the Montana Historical Society's holdings, including rare gems from the library, archives, photograph archives, and museum collections. Treasures showcases "the best of the best" in order to illustrate the incredible legacy that earlier residents of the Treasure State not only created for themselves, but also preserved as a gift for future generations.

Got Art?
May 1, 2006 - February 28, 2007

Thanks to the generosity of its many donors, the Montana Historical Society does. For well over one-hundred years now, Montana's Museum has been a true treasure trove of Treasure State art. Today, as a result of ongoing giving, the Society holds one of the largest fine art collections in the state.

Openhanded benefactors have supported the museum's collecting efforts by giving paintings and sculptures, by donating money that funds the purchase of pieces for the collection, and by supporting the Society's annual art fundraiser, the Western Rendezvous of Art. Presented in this exhibit are a sampling of the many outstanding artworks, both historic and contemporary, that have recently been acquired by Montana's Museum as a result of this enduring generosity.

The Ed Craney Collection of Montana Art Through June 7, 2008

Throughout his life Edmund B. Craney, a prominent Montana radio pioneer, encouraged Montanans to embrace their own artistic culture. This is illustrated by his utilization of local musicians and entertainers on his early radio broadcasts, and is further reflected by the paintings and sculptures that he collected. Consequently, Ed Craney's art collection was comprised solely of art created by Montana artists. By limiting his collecting in this way, Craney not only amassed a stellar sampling of Montana art, he also furthered the careers of many Montana artists by purchasing their works.

Having witnessed many of Charles M. Russell's treasured art pieces leave the state, Ed Craney wanted to insure that his collection of Montana art stayed in the Treasure State for future generations to enjoy. As a result of this concern, he promised Olaf C. Seltzer that he would leave his collection in Montana. Through the generosity of the Greater Montana Foundation in their recent donation to the Montana Historical Society this promise has been fulfilled.

Artists represented in the collection include: Olaf C. Seltzer, Charles M. Russell, William Standing, Ralph DeCamp, Edgar S. Paxson, Ace Powell, Nancy McLaughlin, James Masterson, and Charles Biel.

In addition to the Craney Art Collection, received as a gift from the Greater Montana Foundation, in 1978 Ed Craney gave the Montana Historical Society an extensive collection of early radio broadcasting material including equipment, photographs, and archival records. For more information on Ed Craney and early radio in Montana, read Mary Murphy's article, "Messenger of the New Age", in Montana Magazine of Western History, Autumn, 1989.

On Track: The Railroad Photographs of Warren McGee
Through May 2008

Jointly sponsored by the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, the Montana Department of Transportation, and the Montana Historical Society, On Track: The Railroad Photographs of Warren McGee features the stunning photographs taken by Warren McGee over a 60-year period, beginning in the 1930s and continuing through the 1990s. The exhibit celebrates the photograph collection as it chronicles and pays tribute to trains in 20th century Montana and the surrounding region. This exhibit will also be part of the Museum's traveling exhibit program beginning in June 2008.

Sitting Proud: Indian Portraits of Joseph Scheuerle
June 2008 - April 2009

Joseph G. Scheuerle (1873 - 1948) was an exceptional but little-known Western artist. Trained as a commercial artist he created artwork for the Strobridge Lithographing co, and the National Printing Co. He designed promotional art for the Great Northern Railway's See America First campaign, which featured Glacier National Park and other western wonders. Scheuerle made many visits to Indian reservations in Montana and across the west. His skillfully painted portraits of Indians that he admired and befriended were, in his own words, "all finished and done honestly and carefully from life and on the spot". In many cases, he provided remarkable documentation of the circumstances wherein the portraits were painted by including whimsical sketches and commentary on the reverse.

Traditions in Color and Comfort: Montanas Quilting Heritage
June 2008 - April 2009

Traditions in Color and Comfort: Montana's Quilting Heritage offers a connection to the quilters from our past and highlights the artistry and beauty of quilts selected from the Montana Historical Society's permanent collection. These wonderful quilts-which encompass the entire range of quilting craft, technique, and design-were made by women of diverse cultural and regional backgrounds representative of Montana's history. Each quilt is a treasure with a unique story to tell: some offer tantalizing glimpses into the lives of Montana women, their families and traditions; others present only incomplete fragments of historical tales.

Bob Morgan: A Montana Original

This retrospective exhibition features more than thirty paintings from throughout the career of renowned Helena painter Bob Morgan. A member of the Northwest Rendezvous of Artists and former curator at the Montana Historical Society, Morgan's splendid paintings capture the history of Montana's people and the unparalleled beauty of Montana's rich landscape.

Tradition, Design, Color: Plateau Indian Beaded Bags
From the Fred Mitchell Collection

This exhibition consists of 138 extraordinary beaded bags ranging in date from 1870 to about 1950. Most of these bags have never before been on public display and this will be the largest museum exhibition of them ever assembled. These visually striking bags illustrate the incredible variety of designs used to decorate this traditional art form.

Mapping Montana: Two Centuries of Cartography (Dec 1, 2011 through spring of 2012- Lobby Gallery)

In December 1965 the Montana Historical Society marked the centennial of the creation of Montana’s first map, drawn by preeminent cartographer and surveyor, Walter W. de Lacy, with an exhibit of de Lacy’s maps. For the first time since 1965 the Historical Society is displaying a selection of the institution’s massive collection of over 5,000 maps. This unique collaboration between the Historical Society’s Research Center and the Museum will tell the story of Montana’s past from early exploration to the Indian wars to the arrival of the railroad and through the development of Montana’s industries of mining, cattle ranching, farming, and tourism. The exhibit will also document the creation of towns and cities, national parks and forests, and highways. The Montana Moments Gallery is a special changing exhibit area located at the end of the Montana Homeland Gallery, adjacent to the Montana Young at Heart hands-on interactive gallery.


Montana Modern
(through May 19, 2012)

Modernist architecture took root in post -World War II America, fueled by a rapidly expanding national economy and a demand for new building stock following lean years of financial depression and war. In Montana, the post-war years saw an influx of population to the cities - particularly university towns, places associated with military bases, and those involved in the petroleum markets. These families needed places to live, attend school, and conduct business. Consequently, many residences, public buildings, and storefronts date to this era.

A talented pool of Montana architects versed in Modernist principles attended to these needs. Using the latest materials and technology of the era, they created exciting, sleek new buildings and adapted existing streetscapes to appear contemporary. Modernists reacted to America’s pre-war, classical architecture by looking to the future, doing away with formal symmetry and certain architectural traditions. Instead, Modernism emphasizes the efficient and rational. Montana Modern explores the architecture of Montana that was inspired by this part of our history.

Funding for this exhibit provided through the National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund, administered by the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, and made possible by the contributions of A&E Architects, CWG Architects, Midas Muffler, Wayne Gustafson, Keith Kolb, and Montana State University Libraries.

Newman Myrah Retrospective
(June 14, 2012 through September 1, 2012)

This special exhibit features the masterful work of Deer Lodge native Newman Myrah (1921-2010) – and showcases the tremendous breadth, depth, and talent of one of Montana’s great Western Art masters. Newman Myrah loved painting and sketching outdoors. He often used rodeos as a way to gather source material of horse and rider action for his paintings. He said: " interest in the horse and what the animal meant to the West determines the subject matter of many of my paintings." He was a three-time winner of the Heritage Award at the Western Rendezvous of Art and received the 2004 Montana Historical Society Rendezvous Legacy Award.,

The exhibit is being held in conjunction with the 2012 Western Rendezvous of Art -. Special programs will be held on Thursday, August 16th, 2012: