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About the Museum

 

About The Museum

The Museum of the Yellowstone is dedicated to telling the story of travel to and through Yellowstone National Park, and the Park’s influence on West Yellowstone and the Hebgen Lake Basin. The Museum is managed by the Yellowstone Historic Center, a non-profit located in West Yellowstone.

Founded in 1908, the town of West Yellowstone began with the arrival of rail service to this location. Explore the stories of the growth and changes that occurred in this town as it developed into a true community. The railroad facilities built by the Union Pacific Railroad in West Yellowstone are encompassed in the Oregon Short Line Terminus Historic District. Discover the stories of the building and structures in the Historic District, and see historic photos of them.

The forms of transportation bringing tourists to Yellowstone National Park have changed mightily though the years – from horses and stagecoaches to modern airplanes. Learn about the evolution of travel to Yellowstone in this region with special challenges for transportation.

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Exhibit Highlights

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Ho! For Yellowstone
Since the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, visitors have traveled from around the world experience “Wonderland” in person. From entering the Park on a stagecoach to touring in a commercial tour bus, the evolution of the travel through the years has influenced the experience for each visitor. Come join us and walk through the history of transportation, and share the experiences of early travelers.

Development of the Historic District
Located in the former ticket office of the depot is an exhibit that highlights the structures of the West Yellowstone Oregon Shortline Terminus Historic District. The district includes several Union Pacific Railroad structures over a three-block span in the heart of West Yellowstone. When Union Pacific arrived in 1907, the town did not yet exist. The Union Pacific played a major role in the development of West Yellowstone. Along with the development of the district is the exhibit Beanery Queens: They Came for the Job and Left with Memories. Learn about the young women who traveled to West Yellowstone to work for the Union Pacific. They sang, waited tables, and even had time for their own Yellowstone adventures.

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Dumpster Bears and Old Snaggletooth
Do not feed the bear! The management of wildlife with the presence of humans continues to be an ongoing struggle for the National Parks. Learn about the history of bears in the area and meet “Old Snaggletooth,” West Yellowstone’s most famous dumpster bear.

1959 Earthquake and 1988 Fires
The Museum has exhibits and movies on each of these events which shaped the landscape visitors to Yellowstone National Park see. The 1959 Earthquake is among the most severe to ever strike an area in the Rocky Mountains. The earthquake caused a massive landslide which dammed a river and created Earthquake Lake. The 1988 fires of Yellowstone remain as the largest fires in the history of Yellowstone National Park. Over one-third of the total acreage of the park was impacted by the wildfires.

 

Films

 
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Yellowstone Aflame: Watch the destruction and rebirth caused by the great Yellowstone fires of 1988.

Earthquake of 1959: Real footage and hear first hand accounts of the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake tragedy

Dudes and Sagebrushers: Learn about early travel through Yellowstone National Park.

Above Yellowstone: Get a view from above in the first-ever aerial tour of Yellowstone National Park. Learn about Yellowstone’s natural wonders, the history of its geology, Native Peoples, and wildlife.

 

Walking Tours

 

Enjoy a guided tour of West Yellowstone’s Union Pacific Railroad Historic District. A museum attendant will lead you through the district, which includes stops at the 1908 Depot, the 1925 Dining Lodge designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, and several other sites. Please check with our museum staff for a walking tour schedule.

 
 
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History of the Museum:
A Museum Inside the Depot

 
 

From 1972 to 2000, West Yellowstone’s Union Pacific Depot housed the Museum of the Yellowstone (originally called the West Yellowstone Museum). The museum was a privately-owned museum which interpreted the human and natural history of the Yellowstone region and featured Western Americana artifacts. In 2000, management of the museum transferred to the Yellowstone Historic Center (YHC) thanks to a generous donation from the museum owners, which included the business and a variety of displays. The focus of the new museum reflected the mission of the YHC – interpreting the heritage of West Yellowstone and telling the story of travel to Yellowstone National Park.

The YHC staff and volunteers restored the interior of the depot to its original layout then worked to design and build new displays. In July 2001, after extensive repairs to the roof and ceiling, the YHC opened the new museum to the public with a new name- the Yellowstone Historic Center Museum.

The YHC still operates the museum today, which was once again renamed to Museum of the Yellowstone in 2019. The Museum is open seasonally from mid-May to mid-October. Since its 2001 opening, many of the exhibits and displays have changed to ensure the YHC can continue to attract a wide variety of repeat and new visitors each season. Each year, the Museum attracts over 20,000 local, regional, national, and international guests.