The new Montana Heritage Center

Architect's model of the proposed Montana Heritage Center

Home of the Montana Historical Society!

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, since 1865, 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 MHS have developed a bold vision—one that provides greater access to our historical treasures in an expanded and welcoming facility that increases our service to all of Montana. 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 as one 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 public and legislative meeting space, food service, and other amenities for all those who come to our capital to experience Montana.

Support the Future of Montana's History!

“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. Underneath and above these public areas are where Montana’s memory lives. These improved spaces allow safe and modern storage for MHS’s extensive and priceless collections.

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 donated the land on which the current building now stands more than 65 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 to the 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 158,885 gross square feet (gsf). The new building will provide 65,604 gsf, while the existing space has 93,252 gsf. The new facility will include museum exhibits, educational 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 warmth.

The Montana Historical Society Board of Trustees approved architectural plans for the Montana Heritage Center and the 2005 Montana Legislature authorized the $37.5 million construction budget, and allowed $7.5 million of the total in ­bonding authority for the MHS building project. Since that time, nearly $3.5 million has been raised or pledged 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.

Leadership from all sectors across Montana are validating this momentous and important effort and ensuring its success. Legislative ­leaders from both parties have indicated ­support and recognized the value of this investment. The economic impact of MHS operations is significant now, but with the Montana Heritage Center jobs, income, business sales and local spending will produce a substantial increase in Montana's economy.  A 2016 study by the University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research shows the impact of the Heritage Center would be considerable, including adding new jobs across the state and increasing economic output to $49.3M during construction phase and $21.6M per year thereafter. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a heritage campus at the Capitol, worthy of ­Montana’s wonderful history and its future.

MHS is working hard to earn your support. We want to make the dream of the Montana Heritage Center a reality, worthy of the 152 year history of the Montana Historical Society. One thing our history shows us is that Montanans have never backed down from 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. Consider 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.