Becoming a Billings Scholar and Gentleman
When people visit me here at ZooMontana, they often have very interesting conversations among one another and with Director Jeff about all sorts of interesting things about Billings. Even my best friend, Bert the bison, is able to chime in once in a while with his take on a local event or historical tidbit.
Well I hate feeling left out, so I decided I was going to learn as much as I can about my new hometown of Billings, Montana – the Trailhead of Awesome. And I started with the local arts and culture scene because, well, that just seemed like the most scholarly thing to do.
I started my adventure at the Western Heritage Center as I hoped to learn a little bit about the history of Billings, and also because it’s an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, which I’m told is a very important institution. The Western Heritage Center is located in one of Billings’ oldest buildings, the original Parmly Billings Memorial Library. (FYI, a library is a place where they keep things called “books” that have symbols all through them that tell stories). The museum takes care of about 16,000 artifacts that showcase the history of the Yellowstone River Valley, and there are about 8 to 10 exhibits each year that help bring the history to life. When I was there, I got to explore the original cabin and art studio of James Kenneth Ralston, an artist from the late 1800s whose work depicts growing up on Montana ranches. Very pretty pictures, but it looked like it was really hard work! The museum also hosts a noon lecture series, but I’m not much of a fan of being lectured.
If you follow my Instagram account (@sloth_zoomontana), you know I’m a big fan of architecture, particularly innovative sloth habitats. So my next stop was the Moss Mansion, which was constructed in 1903 and designed by renowned architect Henry Janeway Hardenburgh. The craftsmanship of the Moss Mansion is breathtaking, and I got to tour the home and learn more about the Moss family and its patriarch, Preston Boyd Moss. P.B., as they call him, was an entrepreneur and banker who owned lumber yards, utility companies and even a newspaper! The only thing the house was missing was a nice hammock where I could take a nap.
Next, I decided I wanted to learn more about art so I stopped by the Yellowstone Art Museum. The museum is home to the largest gathering of drawings, paintings, books and memorabilia of cowboy illustrator Will James, as well as works by famous regional artists like J.H. Sharp, Charles M. Russell and others. I learned so much about Montana and the early West through all this art, and so will you!
This was quite an adventure for me and I learned so much that I can share with my friends and visitors at ZooMontana. I was planning on visiting the Yellowstone County Museum as well, but Bert wanted to tag along for that one. I cover that visit in a separate blog, so keep exploring my page.