Five Museums in Billings You Should Visit
Learn About Billings and the Area at these Museums
Billings, and the surrounding area, is rich with history. From long before Coulson was even founded, humans have been shaping the land, leaving their mark, and developing the city that we know today. Of course in our everyday lives we don’t see that. We have to break away from the norm, and take the time to learn about what came before us.
Fortunately, we have services dedicated to exactly that. There are quite a few museums in Billings where you can go to learn about Billings history. Here are 5 museums that you really should check out.
The Moss Mansion is a huge house/museum sitting off Division Street at the edge of downtown. It’s managed by the Billings Preservation Society as a way to “inspire, to educate, and to facilitate historic and cultural preservation activities.”
The house isn’t named after the carpet like plant that can creep over the stones. Instead, it’s named after P.B. Moss, the influencer who built the home in 1903. At the time of building it was one of the most technologically advanced houses built with exquisite architecture. Members of the Moss family lived in the house until the mid-1980’s when it was turned over to the preservation society.
This museum is an excellent way to learn about the family that brought Billings up with great strides through the early part of the 20th century.
Yellowstone Art Museum
Not all museums deal with history. Others, like the YAM, deal with art. Here you can view rotating selections of art from local artists and artists around the world. The museum has great educational programs that are offered to both members and to the public. Their facility “The Visible Vault” makes a wonderful venue for small gatherings.
The museum has had a focus on art “for the enrichment, education, inspiration, and enjoyment of all” since 1964 when they took over the former Yellowstone County Jail. They operated on a small budget for many years until the mid-1990’s when they were awarded grants that allowed them to expand to their current capacity. In 2010 the Visible Vault opened as a means of storing their permanent collections in a safe, environment controlled, area.
Western Heritage Center
Understanding our roots is key to understanding why Billings is the way it is. The Western Heritage Center is dedicated to doing just that. Their goal is to “collect, preserve, and tell the stories of the people and places of the Yellowstone River Valley and the northern High Plains region.” This means it’s not just a collection of artifacts, it’s a collection of inspirational stories.
The museum itself is housed in the original Parmly Billings Library that was constructed from sandstone blocks in 1901. Frederick H. Billings (the founder of our city) named his firstborn son “Parmly”; that name graced our Library for decades until the recent remodel in 2014. The Western Heritage Center organizes events, like their “Hoof it with a Historian” program, to provide fun educational programs for the public to learn more about the shaping of Billings.
Wise Wonders Children’s Museum
Taking another break from history, we have a museum here that allows younger kids to learn (and not get bored as they often do in a traditional museum). The Wise Wonders Children’s Museum is a way to “engage curious, creative, and scientific minds in a playful learning environment.” The goal is to expose kids of all ages to the wonders of math and science.
The museum started out on a shoestring budget back in 2009. It wasn’t until 2012 when the idea really took off, and in 2014 they became a non-profit. They build their permanent location in the old Stella’s Restaurant on N. 29th, regularly updating their “exhibits” with hands on “toys” that encourage kids to learn.
Yellowstone County Museum
Chances are you have driven right past the Yellowstone County Museum a number of times and never given it a second thought. Situated next to the Airport, they have an original steam engine train next to the building, and a number of historical exhibits displayed in the small log cabin.
Currently there is an exhibit about Tom Frye, a sharpshooter that created art by shooting portraits into aluminum panels. But the real draw is the 2-headed calf in the basement that has been there since the 1970’s. Once downstairs, however, you can learn all about the early residents of the area from the Native tribes, to the early settlers, viewing clothing and other artifacts.
Billings has many more museums than just these 5. But if you want a feel for the museum situation in the area, these are great ones to get you started. Also, here’s that calf…