Design

Published 20:02 - 04/01/2020 Updated 12:53 - 07/14/2021

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This project is currently in the design phase. We welcome your involvement and participation!

Watch an animation of the current design:


Although a preliminary concept for a new Heritage Center was developed in 2010, we started the design process from the beginning, not only to update the concept, but to incorporate new directives and priorities. The Building Committee was formed and tasked with determining 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 will be the first building constructed on the Capitol campus in 36 years.

Cushing Terrell is the architectural firm chosen to design the expansion as well as the renovation of the existing building. The design phase is underway and expected to last through Spring 2021 as detailed plans are finalized. Learn more about Cushing Terrell here.

More than 10 years in the making, this expansion and renovation project will be a state-of-the-art repository for the state’s historic collections and resources. When construction is completed, it will nearly double the size of the existing building and include 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 facilities.

Taking inspiration from the state’s geology, the new building will symbolically reference the Lewis Overthrust, the geophysical collision of tectonic plates that drove one plate over another and helped to 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 state. The building’s exterior represents the diverse and ever-changing Montana landscape, the backdrop for the lives of its residents. Built of the same sandstone as the historic structure, the new building will feature subtle patterning incised into the rock.

The landscape design will continue 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 all together is a river-like trail that will flow 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 is currently in the design phase. We welcome your involvement and participation!

Watch an animation of the current design:


Although a preliminary concept for a new Heritage Center was developed in 2010, we started the design process from the beginning, not only to update the concept, but to incorporate new directives and priorities. The Building Committee was formed and tasked with determining 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 will be the first building constructed on the Capitol campus in 36 years.

Cushing Terrell is the architectural firm chosen to design the expansion as well as the renovation of the existing building. The design phase is underway and expected to last through Spring 2021 as detailed plans are finalized. Learn more about Cushing Terrell here.

More than 10 years in the making, this expansion and renovation project will be a state-of-the-art repository for the state’s historic collections and resources. When construction is completed, it will nearly double the size of the existing building and include 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 facilities.

Taking inspiration from the state’s geology, the new building will symbolically reference the Lewis Overthrust, the geophysical collision of tectonic plates that drove one plate over another and helped to 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 state. The building’s exterior represents the diverse and ever-changing Montana landscape, the backdrop for the lives of its residents. Built of the same sandstone as the historic structure, the new building will feature subtle patterning incised into the rock.

The landscape design will continue 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 all together is a river-like trail that will flow 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:


  • 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.

  • Sanders to Temporarily Close

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    North Sanders Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue, will be closed Friday, January 22 until Wednesday, January 27th for Sletten Construction to perform utility work to accommodate the new Montana Heritage Center.

    Please refer to the map for the locations of the closures.

    This may affect your regular travel patterns. Please plan accordingly for alternative routes. For questions please call A&E Construction Manager

    KC French: (406) 594-2957


  • 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: Groundbreaking + 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.

  • Project Milestone: Tribal Outreach

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    Presentation of opportunities for involvement of tribal communities in Montana in the architectural design process of the new Montana Heritage Center.

  • Project Milestone: Virtual Community Open House Held

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  • Project Milestone: Heritage Center committee held first design phase meeting

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    by Amber,
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    HELENA – The new Heritage Center is now in the design phase and on Wednesday the building committee held their first meeting.