- by George Everett
World Museum of Mining is a 22-acre museum of mining technology,
history and frontier culture that was established in 1963 on
the far western edge of the city by Butte volunteers who wanted
to preserve the city's hard rock mining history and the culture
that surrounded it.
The museum and recreated town were built with thousands of hours
of volunteer labor and donations of money and artifacts from
throughout Southwest Montana. Today, the museum welcomes tourists
from around the world and is Butte's premiere museum attraction.
In 1999, the museum hosted more than 20,000 visitors.
Over the past few years, the museum has been making a deliberate
transition to a professional attraction with the help of a paid
staff that includes a full-time museum director, education director,
gift shop manager and a part-time maintenance person.
One of the more recent additions to the musuem grounds is an
exhibit that simulates the experience of underground miners in
Butte's famous underground copper mines. The exhibit was partially
funded by a $30,000 state Travel Infrastructure Investment Program
grant and opened to the public in June of 2002. The museum has
also helped to organize tours of mineyards and an underground
mine tour that is being developed in the Lexington Tunnel near
the Anselmo mineyard.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of exhibits
to see and things to do at the museum. The World Museum of Mining
sits on 22 acres once occupied by the Orphan Girl Mine silver
and zinc mine which was owned by legendary Copper King Marcus
The museum inherited that mine's 100-foot steel headframe, or
'gallows frame'. The headframe, along with the Nordberg double
drum hoist in the remaining engine house, allowed miners and
their tools to be lowered into the 3,200 foot mine shaft in search
of silver and zinc ore. In 2004, with the help of community funders,
the museum added lights to the frame of the Orphan Girl as part
of the community project to illuminate these icons that stand
and testify every day and night to the underground mining heritage
of Butte, Montana. For more details about this ongoing community
project of which the Orphan Girl is now a part, visit Lighten
of the tools and equipment used in underground mining can be
viewed at the museum.
Built in the shade of the gallows frame is Hell Roarin' Gulch,
an authentic reproduction of an 1890's mining camp that offers
a bank, funeral parlor, jail, post office, city hall, union hall,
school, church and Chinese laundry and herb shop. These are only
a few of the more than 35 buildings you can visit. All are carefully
arranged with authentic antiques from early Butte.
Tucked away inside a few of these buildings are exhibits of old
drills, hoists, and other technology used in Butte's underground
mines. Other exhibits display artifacts and interpret what miners
and other residents of a frontier mining camp did when they were
not pulling ore from underground veins. The Roy Garrett Mineral
and Rock Collection contains mineral specimens from the rock
formations around Butte as well as from around the world. The
collection also includes arrowheads, fossils and bones.
The museum also contains a collection
of antique vehicles including fire engines, wagons, and a bulletproof
1928 LaSalle armored payroll car used by the Anaconda Company
that still finds its way into an occasional 4th of July parade.
The World Museum of Mining has also made preserving photographic
images of Butte a priority and over the last three decades they
have assembled a large collection of Butte images. The pictures
are now available to the public to view and purchase.
The black and white prints available are of people, places, mines,
buildings, and events of Butte's past. During the past 35 years,
volunteers have catalogued and copied more than 6,000 photographs
that have been donated to the World Museum of Mining. Prints
from most of the archive's photographs can be purchased.
Researchers, writers, and organizations have used these photos
to tell the story of Butte's rich heritage in print and in film.
If you decide to visit the World Museum of Mining on your next
visit to Butte, the museum is open through October 31st. Admission
is also free to visitors who pay annual dues ($10) to become
members of the Museum.
Bus tours are welcome and guided tours by knowledgeable docents
are available, if requested in advance. For more details, visit
the World Museum of Mining's web site: http://www.miningmuseum.org.