The new Montana Heritage Center

Architect's model of the proposed Montana Heritage Center

Be a part of Montana’s new Home for History!

We proudly present plans for the Montana Heritage Center, the new home for your Montana ­Historical Society. MHS Director Bruce Whittenberg is committed to carrying out the statewide MHS Board of Trustees vision for a facility worthy of Montana, all its people, and its rich history. After years of painstaking planning and design, we believe this architectural model reflects that goal. Just east of the State Capitol, it will be the friendly and open door of Montana.

Our stories mean a lot to us. We are able to celebrate these great chapters of our past because the Montana Historical Society, for 150 years, has collected, shared, and celebrated the extraordinary influences of our forebears—from ancient Native American cultures to the settlers, miners, merchants, and artisans who followed. The impact of the Society is more widespread than ever and increasingly important to:

  • recording, preserving, and celebrating the rich history of Montana’s diverse culture;
  • helping shape the future based on the lessons of the past;
  • teaching those lessons of our past to Montanans of all ages; and
  • attracting visitors whose love of history draws them to our state.

In these ways and many more, the treasures of the Montana Historical Society enrich our state and enhance our quality of life.

“The Society is a large, untapped resource—good for Montana, good for the economy, good for capturing tourism.”—MHS patron

While looking to the past, the ultimate obligation of the Montana Historical Society is to Montana’s future. To fulfill that obligation, the leaders of the Society have developed a bold vision—one that provides greater access to our treasures in an expanded and welcoming facility that increases our service to Montana and improves access to the collections. A larger facility and stronger fiscal health will ensure the Montana Historical Society will always collect, preserve, interpret, and display the stories that have shaped our lives and our land.

The Montana Heritage Center—the new home for the Montana Historical Society—has been designed to capture the grandeur and excitement of Montana itself. After years of hard work, consensus-building, and careful design, we have arrived at plans that unite six Montana Historical Society programs in two buildings with one vision—to celebrate Montana’s history and provide greater access for Montanans and our visitors.

It was 1950 when Montana came together to build the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building, the current home of the Montana Historical Society. Now is the time for our generation to step forward to create a new MHS large enough to preserve and protect our ever-expanding collections and provide a modern venue for the collections to be exhibited and used by future generations of ­Montanans. Consensus was reached to locate this project on the Capitol Campus, a few steps from the Capitol building. This exciting addition will provide meeting space, food service, and other public amenities for all those who come to our capital to experience Montana.

A Building Designed with the Visitor in Mind

“If we had a great facility, we’d be the Smithsonian of the West. Our collections are that good.”—MHS patron

The Montana Heritage Center will be a welcoming place for all people—museum visitors, researchers, educators, school children, tour groups from Montana and beyond—to learn about Montana’s heritage in the shadow of Montana’s State Capitol.

Plans for the new Montana Heritage Center result in additional parking spaces in the area. The landscaped grounds have plenty of green space for outdoor events and festivals including a terraced amphitheatre adjacent to the center.


Layout of the main floors of the new Montana Heritage Center is shown above. Underneath and above these public areas are where Montana’s memory lives. These improved spaces allow safe and modern storage for MHS’s extensive collections. Our winning formula is 6–2–1: 6 programs operating more efficiently out of 2 buildings, providing 1 new level of public service.

The Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building will be renovated to bring it up to a standard worthy of our magnificent collections and honor those who dedicated this space over 60 years ago.

Located directly across the street from the Montana State Capitol, the Montana Historical Society hosts thousands of students and their teachers from every corner of Montana who visit to learn about state government, take MHS tours of the State Capitol, visit Montana’s Museum and engage our research, education, and historic preservation programs. To hear their excited voices, see their faces, and watch them learn of what it means to be a Montanan reminds us of why this is a special place. The plan for the Montana Heritage Center includes renovation of the existing building, using state-owned property just across the street north of the existing building for new construction, and bringing the entire project together with a concourse gallery under Sixth Avenue connecting the two facilities. The new Montana Heritage Center will be a welcoming “front door” to Montana and an important improvement to our State Capitol Campus.

Total space needs for the ­Montana Heritage Center were identified at 119,805 net square feet (nsf). The new building will provide 45,330 nsf, while the existing space has 66,995 nsf. The new facility will include museum exhibits, public gathering space and event center, outdoor courtyard and amphitheater as well as appropriate museum collection storage. The renovation of the Veterans and ­Pioneers Memorial Building will expand the research center and library, ­double the size of the C. M. Russell Gallery, add much-needed classrooms for educational programs, and bring the State Historic Preservation Office into the MHS building. This reno­vation will restore the ­public areas of the facility to their original character and feel.

Architectural plans approved by the Montana Historical Society Board of Trustees represent a construction budget of $37.5 million and won necessary approval of the Montana Legislature in 2005. That Legislature approved $7.5 million in ­bonding authority to begin planning for this development. Since that time, an additional $2.5 million has been raised from private donors and foundations. Private donors support this project with the expectation that state government will provide the appropriate funding to make the Montana Heritage Center a reality.

We are recruiting leadership from across Montana who will validate this momentous and important effort and ensure success. Legislative ­leaders from both parties have indicated ­support and recognized the value of this investment. You will hear much more about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a heritage campus at the Capitol worthy of ­Montana’s wonderful history.

MHS is working hard to earn your support. We want to make the dream of the Montana Heritage Center a reality, worthy of the nearly 150 year history of the Montana Historical Society. One thing our history shows us is that Montanans have never been afraid to take on a challenge. That’s the spirit that makes Montana The Last Best Place. In that spirit, we ask for your support.

Please lend your name to this effort by considering a gift to the Montana Heritage Center Campaign. Make your voice heard.

Thank you. Come visit us at your Montana Historical Society.

In this video, television news anchorman Tom Brokaw stresses the importance of the Montana Heritage Center for Montana's future.