Established in 1963, Butte’s World Museum of Mining is both a historic site and a historic building zoo. It preserves and interprets the Orphan Girl Mine while it also re-creates a fanciful Hell Roarin’ Gulch, with the townscape filled with both moved historic buildings and modern interpretations of the mining camp that existed in Butte in the late 19th century.
The Orphan Mine historic site is the best single place in Montana to explore the gritty reality of deep-shaft mining in the Treasure State.
The metal cages that the mines used to go down into the mines still give me the chills–the sacrifices these men made for their families and community is impressive.
The Hell Roaring’ Gulch part of the museum is in stark contrast to the mid-20th century engineered, technological landscape of the Orphan Girl Mine. It interprets the mining camp days of Butte from the late 1860s into the 1880s before the corporations stepped in and reshaped the totality of the copper mining industry and built environment of Butte.
Like many building zoos of the highway era (the museum is easily accessed from the interstate), the recreated town emphasizes the ethnic diversity of the mining camp as well as some of the stereotypes of the era.
But the exhibit buildings also have several strong points, especially in their collections, such as the “union hall” (you do worry about the long-term conservation of the valuable
artifacts and banners shown in this photo); the store, which displays common items sought by the miners and their families; and various offices that show the business of
mapping the mines, registering claims, and assaying the metals .
In my first post about the World Museum of Mining, I addressed this valuable collection of a historic mine, several historic buildings, and thousands of historic artifacts briefly. Properties like the impressive log construction of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, shown below, are invaluable. The World Museum of Mining deserved more attention, and it deserves the attention of any serious heritage tourist to Montana.