Primary Exhibit
Open Year-round

Paugh History Hall

Discover. Reflect. Connect.

Step into the captivating Paugh History Hall at Museum of the Rockies, where stories of the Northern Rocky Mountains come alive, weaving a tapestry that connects us to the past and illuminates the lives of those who came before us. Journeying from early exploration to the mid-20th century, these thought-provoking exhibitions vividly depict the cultural and social transformations brought about by the diverse individuals who called this region home.

Immerse yourself in history as you encounter a treasure trove of historical artifacts, captivating photographs, evocative murals, and carefully selected pieces from our extensive collection. These remarkable exhibits will deepen your understanding of the area's rich history while shedding light on the greater forces shaping our state and nation.

The Cultural History Department offers internship opportunities for Montana State University undergraduate and graduate students. Our internships provide hands-on learning in collections care and management. These interns, in collaboration with the Cultural History Collections Managers, created Power of Place: The Artwork of Helen McAuslan and Something Old, Something New: Recent Additions to the Cultural History Collection in the Paugh History Hall.

Join us in the Paugh History Hall and embark on a captivating journey through time as we explore the profound stories that have shaped our region and collective identity.

Highlights include:

Beyond simply providing warmth, quilts can also preserve family memories, connect communities, and tell stories about the people who made or used them. By studying the materials, design, creators, and uses of historical quilts, we can learn about family life and cultural traditions. While some quilts are made for practical purposes, others are made to commemorate important events. Commemorative quilts are often given to family and friends who treasure the quilts and pass them down through generations. The movements of quilts share stories of ceremony, celebration, migration, marriage, birth, and death. Quilts have significant historical value as objects traditionally made by women, a group whose stories are less often told in traditional history. Quilts old and new continue to share stories and connect families and communities.

In 2020, Museum of the Rockies completed the Marlene Saccoccia Quilt Heritage Project. The museum’s collection of over 100 quilts has been thoroughly researched, cataloged, and photographed and is now available online at Montana Memory Project. This project was funded by Dr. Philip and Marlene Saccoccia and a grant from the Montana History Foundation.

Power of Place: The Artwork of Helen McAuslan shares the work of Helen McAuslan, an artist who resided in Montana for several decades. McAuslan was an avid traveler, and her work depicts scenes from around the globe. While she was inspired by many cultures, the rugged beauty of the Rockies is what captivated McAuslan to relocate to Montana and convey that beauty through her work. The artwork in this exhibit explores McAuslan's experience of Montana's landscape and the beauty of the world.

The collection may be viewed in person at the museum or online at the Montana History Portal.

Museum of the Rockies was awarded a Cultural Trust grant by the Montana Arts Council to support this project.

Something Old, Something New: Recent Additions to the Cultural History Collection highlights the historical partnership between Museum of the Rockies and Montana State University (MSU). This exhibit tells the story of MSU's evolution from an agricultural school to a research-driven institution during and after the World Wars.

It includes recent acquisitions that belonged to Dr. Maurice Hilleman, a Montana State College graduate who went on to develop over 40 vaccines that have saved the lives of millions. Dr. Hilleman's inventions are an important example of how MSU's scientific programs have benefited Montana and the world.

Between 1850 and 1950, millions of dollars worth of minerals were extracted from Montana’s mountains and hills. Most of that ore was hauled to daylight through a labyrinth of shafts by small carts. Many of these small carts were either pushed by hand or pulled by horses and mules out horizontal shafts. Ore carts were also used in underground shafts as deep as 5000 feet below the surface. Without a doubt, the lowly ore cart remains one of the most important economic symbols of Montana’s first century.

Until the 1920s when trucks began to take over the movement of goods across Montana, the principal way of hauling cargo and produce over the roads was the horse-drawn draft wagon. With their produce in high demand, farmers across the West spent most of the winter hauling their crops to elevators, rail cars, and nearby military posts.

In 1898, F. Jay Haynes, Yellowstone National Park’s most celebrated photographer, founded the Yellowstone-Monida Stage Line. This stagecoach, and others like it, delivered travelers to the Park’s west entrance from the Utah Northern Railroad’s depot in Monida, Montana, near the Idaho border. The 70-mile trip lasted from six to eight days, depending upon weather and road conditions.

This wrought-iron rifled cannon was one of about 1,100 manufactured for use during the Civil War. The barrel of the cannon was machined, or rifled, with grooves that allowed the cannon to fire a 3-inch elongated projectile up to 2000 yards with great accuracy. When it accompanied a cavalry or infantry unit, the cannon would be attached to a limber, a two-wheeled horse-drawn ammunition box. In 1890, after Fort Ellis was abandoned, this Ordinance Rifle was left behind in Bozeman.

Aviation came to Montana with World War I. By the early 1930s, ranchers and farmers were building their own flying flivvers, often from kits or plans published in magazines such as Modern Mechanics. The historic solo flight of Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, from New York to Paris in 1927, fired the enthusiasm of brothers Tom and Ben Helmerichs to build a flying machine of their own.

Equipped with a 65 hp aluminum V8 engine and a special low-ratio axle, the Olds Touring Car was ideal for hauling a full load of passengers and their baggage up and down the steep terrain of the West. Originally used to transport tourists up Pikes Peak in Colorado, the car was restored by its most recent owner, Joseph L. Cramer of Denver, and put on display at numerous antique car tours and shows throughout the intermountain West.

In the later years of the homestead movement, when more goods were available via rail, many homestead shacks were built of milled 2x4s covered with tarpaper. Heavy paper often covered the interior walls to keep out drafts and interior furnishings were minimal.

The 1930s House shows the style of living common to a family during that decade of depression and drought in Montana. The furnishings are a combination of old and new as would be expected in the home of a young couple establishing a household and a business in those depressed times.

Functioning as a family home and business enterprise, the rural filling station became a common sight in the northern Rocky Mountain region in the 1920s and 1930s. Despite the deepening economic depression that followed the stock market crash of 1929, gasoline sales continued to increase as more people came to rely on the automobile.

Historians, museum curators, and collectors alike are often faced with the challenges of identifying strange and obscure artifacts. Object identification takes hours of research, and sometimes that research all starts with a best guess.

These cases are full of mystery objects from the museum’s collections. Play the History Mystery Challenge and see if you can identify each object.