Ravalli County Museum, Hamilton

Will Beck
Last Updated: March 4th, 2023

Tucked away in Hamilton, Montana, the Ravalli County Museum is home to many unique and rare historical collections from the Native American heritage of the nation, along with early settlers in the county.

The museum holds many artifacts, oral histories, and collections from the Bitterroot Valley and welcomes guests with exciting events and opportunities to learn and experience the history of the region.

bitterroot valley hamilton

What’s the history of the Ravalli County Museum?

The Ravalli County Museum is housed in the former Ravalli County Courthouse, which was designed and built by A.J. Gibson in 1900. The building has been a hub of the community since its building and remains so today, now as the museum’s permanent home.

The courthouse was active as the civic seat until 1979 when it was saved from demolition by the vote of locals – and eventually turned over to the Ravalli County Historical Society.

The museum is considered to be one of the finest small museums in the northwest, thanks to its rich history and collections of incredible Native American artifacts and the Salish culture and Lewis and Clark.

What is there to do and see at the Ravalli County Museum?

what is there to see
Image: Joe Mabel

Housing thousands of artifacts, the Ravalli County Museum deserves its central place in the region’s top history museums.

The collections at the museum include rotating exhibits and permanent exhibits ranging from photo collections, historical archives, and physical artifacts from the country’s historic past.

The Discovery Room

The exhibit in the Discovery Room focuses on the Lewis and Clark Expedition as they traveled through the Bitterroot Valley in 1805 and 1806. Here, they encountered the Salish peoples at Ross Hole.

Explore Native American history along with the discoveries in the region as exploration expanded in the west.

Life in the West

A look into the historic lifestyle of the West, Life in the West features tools, clothing, rodeo gear, and much more – all focused on the early American cowboy and life on the ranch.

Trappers & Miners

The Trappers and Miners room is an example of a log cabin from the mid-1800s. The room is created with artifacts and replicas from the life of trappers and miners as they carved out the West.

Walk Through the Bitter Root

Logging and agriculture have been a major part of the Bitter Root Valley’s development over the decades, so the Walk Through the Bitter Root room takes a look at this portion of the region’s history.

The exhibit uses murals to show what the valley looked like in the early 1900s and showcases artifacts and intriguing implements used way back when.

Montana Café

A unique display room at the Ravalli County Museum is the Montana Café room, a space remembering the iconic restaurant once housed in Hamilton.

The café was the first to have a neon sign in Hamilton – possibly Montana! – and here you’ll find many stories of intriguing days in the place.

Natural History

For those intrigued by the wildlife and plants of the region, exploring the Natural History room will be a favorite. The majority of the animals here are native to the region.

Berti Lord Collection

Berti Lord was an early photographer local to the region in the Victorian era. The exhibit showcases Lord’s photography along with a timeline of photography techniques.

What kind of events go on at the Ravalli County Museum?

The Ravalli County Museum happily hosts and participates in many events locally throughout the year. Some of the most well-known events that they host include the following.

Veteran’s Day Observation

On November 11 each year, the Ravalli County Museum hosts and Veteran’s Day Observation ceremony and program.

The event takes place on the lawn of the museum, and all are welcome to come and lay wreaths at the Doughboy, during the gun salute.

Annual Liquid Apple Night

Each year in October, the Ravalli County Museum hosts a celebration of the apple with sweet and tart goodies, apple ciders, and other deliciousness, with live music, all from the Rocky Mountain northwest.

Annual McIntosh Apple Day

Each year – the same day as Annual Liquid Apple Night – the museum hosts the beloved McIntosh Apple Day event. The event is hailed as the biggest bake sale under the Big Sky, and celebrates the beloved apple in the fall festival.

The festival has been named one of Montana’s best fall festivals by National Geographic Traveler Online.

Additional Events

For additional events, check the calendar of the Ravalli County Museum, where you’ll events like Bitter Root Day, holiday celebrations, and more.

How do I find out what’s going on at the Ravalli County Museum?

ravalli county museum
Image: Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Pop into the museum Tuesdays through Saturdays, or check out their website to find out what’s going on while you’re in town.

  • 205 Bedford, Hamilton, MT
  • (406)363-3338
  • Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10 am to 4 pm, Thursday 10 am to 8 pm (6 pm in winter), Saturday 9 am to 1 pm
  • Closed: Sundays and Mondays
  • Season: Year-round
  • Fees: Adults $3, Students and seniors $1, Families $6
  • Free Days: Thursdays and Saturdays

Ravalli County Museum–Conclusion

The Ravalli County Museum, situated in Hamilton Montana, is home to some of the best artifacts and exhibits on the history of Montana, specifically pertaining to the Indigenous peoples and early explorers and settlers of the region.

You’ll find photography collections and themed rooms set up for kid-friendly exploration and learning, along with unique events engaging with the community.

Be sure to check the website ahead of time before you visit to see if any fun events are on while you’re in town and plan for a few hours exploring the museum while you’re there.

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About The Author

Will Beck

Will is a true digital nomad, taking his work on the road at every opportunity. His first love is coffee, with travel a close 2nd. He loves nothing more than hitting the road in his self-build campervan and visiting off-the-beaten-path places, away from popular tourist destinations.

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