Most free museums feel like junk stores without price tags, but this place, as small and four miles away from where you probably want to be, wasn’t just worth the trip, it was straight up awesome. Not only did we find a bunch of great cowboy stuff to buy our brother for his upcoming birthday at fine prices, but we also saw neat stuff, had great fun, and all on free admission.
According to them, the mission of the Yellowstone County Museum in Billings, Montana, is to “collect, preserve, research, and interpret the natural history, history and diverse cultures of the Yellowstone Valley of Montana and the Northern Plains.”
That all sounds pretty boring, so let me tell you what they really do. They focus on the pre-history of the plains/Montana area through to the 1950s with exhibits and archives including materials specific to Northern Plains Indian Tribes, western expansion, mining, cattle/sheep herding industries, transportation industries, military (1870-1950s), various medical fields, music, textiles, household goods and personal goods… I mean really strange stuff people like us have never seen before.
Let me put all that in terms you can actually wrap your head around. The main floor is pretty neat, and has a bunch of stuff you can buy to remember your trip. Downstairs they have the weirdest assortment of neat stuff like “The Western Room” where you can see an actual chuck wagon that served dinner to real pioneer cowboys riding the early Yellowstone county area.
They have the only known 1910 Kenmore automobile in existence. If you’re a car buff, or just love washing machines, this is something you have to see to believe.
They have the creepiest (and they say the most famous) two-headed calf in the country.
And outside, they have “the last steam engine” on display. This is a huge feather in an already pretty swollen cap, because scrap alone says it’s worth tens of thousands of dollars, and hundreds of thousands to the private collectors. The fact that they have it at all is testament enough, but that they have it sheltered from the elements, but still in a place where you can play on it speaks that much higher of them.
And if you want to know something, all the people we met there were perfectly happy – even giddy – to answer questions and share their wisdom.
Museum Summer/Autumn Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10:30am – 5:30pm. They’re closed January to update exhibits. Guided tours are available by appointment, but call the museum if you have questions. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day, open other legal holidays.
And although it’s free, they do gladly accept your gracious donations.
The museum is located directly South of the Logan International Airport in Billings (not the “other” Logan International”). Just drive in to the airport past the front of the terminal and follow the road as it curves east. The museum is located just before the airport exit on your right. You can also check them out online at YellowstoneCountyMuseum.org.