Design

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This project has wrapped up the building design phase and is working on the interpretive design phase. We welcome your involvement and participation!

Watch an animation of the building design:


A preliminary concept for the Montana Heritage Center was developed in 2010, but the design process was restarted in 2020 not only to update the concept, but also to incorporate new directives and priorities. The Building Committee was created to determine the structure, design, and look of the new Heritage Center. Scroll down to learn more about the Building Committee, the Steering Committee, and the committee structures.

Committee members were directed to aspire to the highest standards of efficiency and sustainability for the design. This is the first building constructed on the Capitol campus since 1984.

Cushing Terrell is the architectural firm chosen to design the expansion as well as the renovation of the existing building. Detailed plans are being finalized. Learn more about Cushing Terrell here.

More than a decade in the making, this expansion and renovation project is a state-of-the-art repository for Montana’s historic collections and resources. When construction is completed, it will nearly double the size of the existing Montana Historical Society facility, with 66,000 square feet of new space, plus exterior and interior renovations. The Cushing Terrell design melds new with historic, using the space between the two structures to create a dramatic entry that will connect the two buildings.

Taking inspiration from the state’s geology, the addition symbolically references the Lewis Overthrust, the geophysical collision of tectonic plates that drove one plate over another and helped define Montana’s landscape. The design concept for the Montana Heritage Center is meant to convey the feeling that nature is a driving force behind why people live in The Treasure State. Built of the same sandstone as the adjacent historic structure, the new building features subtle patterning incised into the rock.

The landscape design continues the sense of exploration, with features and plantings that mimic (on a micro scale) the journey from the plains and grasslands to the foothills and forests, and finally to mountain landscapes. Linking it together is a river-like trail that flows from one ecosystem to the next.

With a commitment to sustainability and creating healthy spaces, the project is pursuing both USGBC LEED and IWBI WELL certifications, and is anticipated to be complete in 2024.



Listen to Cushing Terrell architects describe the inspiration behind the architectural design:


This project has wrapped up the building design phase and is working on the interpretive design phase. We welcome your involvement and participation!

Watch an animation of the building design:


A preliminary concept for the Montana Heritage Center was developed in 2010, but the design process was restarted in 2020 not only to update the concept, but also to incorporate new directives and priorities. The Building Committee was created to determine the structure, design, and look of the new Heritage Center. Scroll down to learn more about the Building Committee, the Steering Committee, and the committee structures.

Committee members were directed to aspire to the highest standards of efficiency and sustainability for the design. This is the first building constructed on the Capitol campus since 1984.

Cushing Terrell is the architectural firm chosen to design the expansion as well as the renovation of the existing building. Detailed plans are being finalized. Learn more about Cushing Terrell here.

More than a decade in the making, this expansion and renovation project is a state-of-the-art repository for Montana’s historic collections and resources. When construction is completed, it will nearly double the size of the existing Montana Historical Society facility, with 66,000 square feet of new space, plus exterior and interior renovations. The Cushing Terrell design melds new with historic, using the space between the two structures to create a dramatic entry that will connect the two buildings.

Taking inspiration from the state’s geology, the addition symbolically references the Lewis Overthrust, the geophysical collision of tectonic plates that drove one plate over another and helped define Montana’s landscape. The design concept for the Montana Heritage Center is meant to convey the feeling that nature is a driving force behind why people live in The Treasure State. Built of the same sandstone as the adjacent historic structure, the new building features subtle patterning incised into the rock.

The landscape design continues the sense of exploration, with features and plantings that mimic (on a micro scale) the journey from the plains and grasslands to the foothills and forests, and finally to mountain landscapes. Linking it together is a river-like trail that flows from one ecosystem to the next.

With a commitment to sustainability and creating healthy spaces, the project is pursuing both USGBC LEED and IWBI WELL certifications, and is anticipated to be complete in 2024.



Listen to Cushing Terrell architects describe the inspiration behind the architectural design:


  • Bainville History Teacher Honored

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    April Wills, a fifth-grade teacher at Bainville Public School in northeast Montana, is the winner of the Montana Statehood Centennial Bell Award honoring the Montana History Teacher of the Year at the fourth- through sixth-grade level for 2020-2021.

    Chosen by a panel of Montana history experts, Wills is the 32nd annual winner of the award. Montana history teachers at the fourth- through sixth-grade levels are chosen in uneven numbered years. Montana history teachers at the seventh- through twelfth-grade levels are chosen in even numbered years.

    Wills received a plaque and a $4,500 prize on Statehood Day, Nov. 8, at a ceremony at the State Capitol in Helena. The money can be used for the purchase of Montana History materials, field trips, guest speakers and anything else that will enhance her teaching of Montana History.

    The award is sponsored by the Montana Television Network, the Montana History Foundation, Sons & Daughters of Montana Pioneers, the 1889 Coffee House in Helena, and in cooperation with the Montana Historical Society.

    Wills is a native of Columbus, who graduated from Broadwater High School in Townsend, and received her elementary education degree from the University of Montana in Missoula. She received her master’s degree in Learning and Technology from Western Governors University. Wills also is a Montana Teacher Leader for the Montana Historical Society, presenting Montana History to Montana History teachers across the Treasure State.

    Wills has taught Montana history at Bainville School since 2014.

    “I mesh traditional teaching practices with technology, and whenever possible I bring in trunks from the Montana Historical Society and state parks,” she said. “We visit museums, cultural centers, and have guest speakers that can expand our learning.”

    Wills recalled that one year when the studied the stars, students entered a quiet, dark room flickering with stars, listened to the sounds of drumming, and gazed on planetary views. They learned about the ways that the Crow tribe used astronomy and listened to oral star stories.

    “Students were fascinated,” Wills noted.

    In her nominating letter, Samantha Keefner, a fellow teacher at Bainville School, said Wills has worked hard to bring the history of our state into the classrooms of many other educators.

    “Without April’s expert lead, I would have never known to utilize the many wonderful traveling trunks that the Montana Historical Society has available to schools with different focuses in Montana History,” Keefner wrote. “Her passion and excitement for Montana History is present in everything she does.”

    Student Tally Berwick added that his favorite part about the Montana history unit was getting to pick a famous person from Montana and making a movie about that person.

    “I chose Charlie Russell,” Berwick wrote. “It was really interesting learning about his life and the impact he had on Montana.”

    For more information about the award and the Nov. 8 ceremony, contact Norma Ashby Smith, award coordinator, at ashby7@charter.net.

  • Montana’s Historical Society Offers Education for All Ages

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    Woolly mammoth tusks, a bison jump diorama and a fascinating collection of Charlie Russell artwork are a few of the treasures to behold at the Montana Historical Society in Helena.

    Visitors of all ages are encouraged to learn more about the Treasure State at the MHS museum and research center in Helena. Its galleries hold hundreds of exciting and unusual objects, some dating back thousands of years. The Historical Society also has re-opened the Original Governor’s Mansion for tours, after shuttering the facility during the past year due to the pandemic.

    “We look forward to seeing our friends, members, and visitors this summer,” said MHS Director Molly Kruckenberg. “It’s been fairly quiet for the past year, so we used that time to open our new Portraits exhibit as well as maintain cleanliness standards to help control the spread of COVID-19.”

    The exhibit “Who Speaks to You: Portraits from the Permanent Collection” is an eclectic combination of people and pets. People have created portraits for thousands of years to communicate with each other and the divine. Each portrait has a story to tell. We challenge our guests to examine the portraits and discover who speaks to you.

    More than 80 art pieces by famed “Cowboy Artist” Charlie Russell reside in the 2,000-square-foot Mackay Gallery. They include major oils, watercolors, pen and inks, pencil sketches, bronzes, sculptures and illustrated letters.

    Our “Neither Empty Nor Unknown” gallery explores Montana in 1804-06, when the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery passed through what was neither empty nor uncharted wilderness. The area’s flora, fauna and its Native nations are featured in this exhibit.

    “Each of the areas featured figured prominently in the discoveries and contacts of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, thereby providing quotes and observations from the explorers,” Kruckenberg said. “But these sites were also spiritually and/or economically important to Native peoples and serve as a vehicle from which their life-ways and culture can be interpreted.”

    Hours for the museum are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 per person, or $12 for families, with children entering for only $1. The Montana Historical Society is located at 225 No. Roberts St. in Helena. For more information, call MHS at 406/444-2694.

  • M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Awards $500,000 to Help Montana Historical Society Promote, Preserve Cultural Heritage

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    Helena, Mont. — The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust has awarded $500,000 to the Montana Historical Society (MHS) to help it preserve and promote the state’s cultural heritage through the renovation and construction of a new Montana Heritage Center. The funds will help MHS renovate its existing facility and construct a 64,000-square-foot addition.

    “The Montana Historical Society plays a key role in preserving the history and culture of Montana. Organizations like MHS help educate and inspire children and families while simultaneously helping build and strengthen bonds of community. It is wonderful to see their growth as a result of successfully serving this mission, and we are grateful to play a small role as they expand to serve even more members of the Montana community,” said Steve Moore, executive director, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

    The grant to MHS reflects Murdock Trust’s continued investment in the Pacific Northwest, having contributed more than $99 million to nonprofits serving communities in Montana and $1.2 billion in the region overall since 1975. This includes $3.3 million during the past decade for arts and culture organizations in Montana.

    “This project has been more than 15 years in the making, so we are thrilled to finally see it become a reality,” said MHS Director Molly Kruckenberg. “This grant from the Murdock Charitable Trust will ensure that MHS is able to continue promoting an understanding and appreciation of Montana’s rich culture ­for generations to come.”

    Established in 1865, MHS is one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the West. Since 1952, its home – and its vast collection of artifacts, photographs and documents – has been in the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building in Helena. The society has outgrown the building, and the building needs some mechanical updates.

    The Heritage Center project is receiving $42.2 million from the statewide accommodations tax, paid by those who rent hotel rooms or other accommodations in the state, with an additional $10 million raised by MHS. MHS is creating new interactive public areas, an additional collections space, a commons area connecting to a café, a gift shop and event center, reconfigured galleries, and enhanced workspaces for staff. It is set to open in 2024.

    About M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust

    The Murdock Trust, created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, provides grants to organizations in five states of the Pacific Northwest—Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington—that seek to strengthen the region’s educational, spiritual and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways. Since its inception in 1975, the Trust has awarded more than 7,500 grants totaling more than $1.2 billion. For more information, find the Murdock Trust on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and on our website.

  • Montana Historical Society to Present Heritage Center Vision

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    Caring for our Past, Investing in our Future” is a three-part presentation Friday evening, Oct. 15, at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky.

    The free program, which begins at 6:30 p.m., is a hybrid model in which people can attend online or in person.

    Author Jeff Strickler will explore how the past is preserved in the origins of the names used to identify area landmarks. Through his sage humor and in-depth research, Dr. Strickler will discuss stories from his latest book “Bozeman’s Backyard: Names in the Madison, Gallatin & Bridger Ranges."

    Next, Molly Kruckenberg, director of the Montana Historical Society, will share her vision for the new awe-inspiring Montana Heritage Center, which is scheduled to open in 2024. Kruckenberg notes that time is what the Montana Historical Society is all about, but when a 70-year-old building threatens artifacts dating back to the Ice Age, it’s time to invest in the future.

    “I will share the importance of preserving the objects that tell our stories, along with the latest on the Montana Heritage Center,” Kruckenberg said.

    The third part of the program involves the Big Sky Historical Collection, which is a new digital storytelling platform launched by the Historic Crail Ranch Homestead Museum. It’s the only public museum in Big Sky, and is snowbound for half the year. Learn how to access the database and exhibits that feature local Big Sky History.

    A question-and-answer session will follow the presentations.

    For more information, contact the performing arts center at info@warrenmillerpac.org or 406/995-6345. To view online, go to https://youtu.be/SCJ3zM4aTC8 [youtu.be]

  • Montana Historical Society to Participate in National Museum Assessment Program

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    The Montana Historical Society is undertaking a review to discover more meaningful ways to engage visitors at the new Montana Heritage Center, which currently is under construction in Helena.
    In particular, MHS wants to identify new ways to better engage American Indian visitors, researchers, presenters, and program participants.
    “We perceive of ourselves as being inclusive, but do Indian communities feel this way?” said Deb Mitchell, MHS Outreach and Interpretation program specialist. “If not, how do we reach them and meet their expectations?”
    The Museum Assessment Program is administered by the national American Alliance of Museums. Through a guided self-study assessment and on-site consultation with a museum professional, participation in the assessment will empower MHS to better serve the citizens of Montana.
    “Choosing to be part of the MAP program is indicative of the commitment to civic involvement, public service and overall excellence on the part of the Montana Historical Society,” said Laura Lott, president of AAM. “Studies have shown America’s museums to be among the country’s most trusted and valued institutions. MAP is designed to make them even better.”
    Mitchell added that the $52 million addition and upgrades to the current building will greatly increase MHS’ ability to provide in-house services to K-12 educators, including in the new classroom space.
    “One of our top priorities is to develop a plan to best use the resources in serving not just K-12 teachers and students who currently use our materials, but also to reach new audiences as well,” she said.
    The assessment also will explore the demographics of MHS visitors and consider how to reach people who are not attending events or exhibits there.
    “Too often, museum programming is perceived as stuffy or predictable,” Mitchell said. “By going through this program, we will shift more to a contemporary vision of the audience’s wants and needs by evaluating our assets and building a good foundation to make our programming fit a broader audience.”
    As the project progresses, MHS will call on community volunteers for assistance.
    The museum’s participation is made possible through funding provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). MAP helps museums strengthen operations, plan for the future, and meet standards through self-study assessment and a consultative site visit from an expert peer reviewer.
    Since its creation in 1981, the MAP program has served more than 5,000 museums.
    For more information about AAM, visit www.aam-us.org.
    For additional information about the assessment, contact Deb Mitchell at 406/444-4789 or dmitchell@mt.gov

  • Opportunity Bank of Montana Pledges $100,000 to Montana Heritage Center Project

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    Opportunity Bank of Montana announces a $100,000 pledge to the Montana Historical Society for the state’s new Montana Heritage Center.
    It is one of the largest donations since construction began on the Heritage Center this fall, and Director Molly Kruckenberg said it is a gift for all Montanans.
    “Opportunity Bank has supported the Montana Heritage Center since the idea originated more than a decade ago,” Kruckenberg said. “We are honored to receive their donation.”
    Opportunity Bank President Pete Johnson said that with 22 branches across the Treasure State, the donation by Opportunity Bank represents the wide range of people and communities in Montana. He hopes the bank’s contribution inspires other businesses and individuals to donate.
    “Preserving Montana’s history is extremely important,” Johnson said. “The Montana Heritage Center will help citizens understand and appreciate our history. It will be a wonderful asset for our state.”
    Opportunity Bank is a $1.2 billion community bank, the fourth largest bank headquartered in Montana. Its doors fi rst opened in 1922 as American Building and Loan, becoming Opportunity Bank in 2014.
    “As the Bank approaches our 100-year anniversary, we have distinct appreciation for stories about how we became who we are,” Johnson said. “At our heart, we are a Montana community bank and strive to make our communities stronger.”
    Construction of the $53 million Montana Heritage Center was approved by the Montana State Legislature in 2019. While the bulk of the funding will come from tourism dollars through the Lodging Facility Use Tax – also known as the bed tax – the Montana Historical Society was tasked with raising $10 million for the project. Thus far, MHS has raised close to $5.6 million, including the Opportunity Bank donation.
    The donation will be used to help fund work on the new 66,000-square-foot Heritage Center affixed to the north side of the current Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building on the Capitol Campus. The Memorial Building, which was built in the 1950s and currently houses MHS, will be upgraded. The facilities will expand exhibit and educational spaces and provide a better storage environment for priceless artifacts, paintings and other items held at the Montana Historical Society for the benefi t of all Montanans.
    For more information or to donate to the project, go online to MontanasMuseum.org.
    Questions can be directed to Eve Byron, MHS Public Information Officer, at eve.byron@mt.gov or 406/444-6843 or Katie Walsh, Opportunity Bank Marketing Director, at KatieWalsh@oppbank.com or 406/457-4056.

  • Project Milestone: Closure of 6th Avenue

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    After the Legislature voted to approve the Montana Museums Act in 2019, the MHC Building Committee reconvened more than a decade after the project was first conceptualized. The site selection process (visit https://montanamuseum.org/select to learn more) determined that the best location - for a variety of reasons - remained the site at 6th Avenue & Roberts St.

    In the course of reviewing plans from 2009, however, there was further discussion of the logistical and construction costs of maintaining two separate buildings across 6th Avenue, as originally envisioned. It was determined that connecting the new expansion to the existing Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building would save money, increase parking, and create a better experience for visitors.

    The new building expansion will connect to the existing home of the Montana Historical Society across 6th Avenue. A new entrance and café plaza will connect the two buildings. The interior spaces of the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building will be renovated. The building itself, however, is on the National Register of Historic Places and the exterior of the building will not be altered.

    The building addition will both honor and complement this historic building. Learn more about the design inspiration and plans here.

    During this discussion, many community members understandably expressed concern about the impact this closure would have on the Capitol campus and the surrounding neighborhood. We intentionally created opportunities for the community members to share their perspectives on this change.


    Learn more about the decision-making process:


    March 24, 2020 - Completed Traffic Study

    Prior to seeking the approval of the City of Helena for the permanent closure, we engaged a consultant to complete a traffic study of the potential impact.

    https://montanamuseum.org/5720/widgets/17689/documents/11529



    April 21, 2020 - Community Open House

    The MHC project team held a community open house (virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions) to present the design concept. In order to get the word out, we canvassed the surrounding neighborhood to invite neighbors, contacted the Helena Citizens Council, and shared the meeting on social media channels and in the press.

    https://montanamuseum.org/design/widgets/17747/videos/1571



    May 13, 2020 - Helena City Commission Administrative Meeting

    Agenda: https://helena.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/MeetingView.aspx?MeetingID=312&MinutesMeetingID=-1&doctype=Agenda

    Meeting Item: https://helena.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/CoverSheet.aspx?ItemID=4662&MeetingID=312


    May 15, 2020 - Updated Traffic Study

    In response to comments we received during the public outreach, we completed an updated traffic study.

    https://montanamuseum.org/5720/widgets/17689/documents/11633



    May 18, 2020 - Helena City Commission Meeting

    The Helena City Commission considered a resolution of intention to vacate 6th Avenue R/W between N. Roberts Street and Sanders Street.

    Agenda: https://helena.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/MeetingView.aspx?MeetingID=302&MinutesMeetingID=-1&doctype=Agenda

    Meeting Item: https://helena.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/CoverSheet.aspx?ItemID=4672&MeetingID=302

    Recording: https://www.helenacivictv.org/on-demand/692


    June 4, 2020 – Neighborhood Meeting

    The design team held an online discussion with neighbors of the Montana Heritage Center to discuss traffic impacts and potential traffic calming measures.

    Recording: https://montanamuseum.org/design/widgets/17747/videos/1717


    June 8, 2020 - Helena City Commission Public Hearing

    The Helena City Commission considered the resolution of intention to vacate 6th Avenue R/W between N. Roberts Street and Sanders Street and voted to approve the resolution.

    Agenda: https://helena.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/MeetingView.aspx?MeetingID=304&MinutesMeetingID=-1&doctype=Agenda

    Meeting Item: https://helena.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/CoverSheet.aspx?ItemID=4691&MeetingID=304

    Recording: https://www.helenacivictv.org/on-demand/845



  • Parking Design Finalized

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    During the site selection process one of the most prominent concerns we heard from the community was about parking on the Capitol campus. Selecting the location at 6th & Roberts and connecting the new building to the existing MHS building created an increased in parking not only for the museum and heritage center, but for the campus as a whole.

  • Project Milestone: Ground Blessing

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  • Project Milestone: Contractor Selected

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    Proposals for construction were received in May and Sletten Construction of Great Falls was successfully awarded the construction contract.

    Six Montana contractors submitted proposals based on criteria developed by the selection committee and participated in interviews. All six submittals demonstrated the quality of these firms and their capabilities to construct the project. Based upon the scoring criteria in the Request for Proposals, Sletten received the highest score among the competitors.

Page last updated: 19 January 2022, 07:17