Our history

About the C.M. Russell Museum

Charles M. Russell captured the landscapes, the spirit, and the culture of the West during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Because the collection of the C.M. Russell Museum spans the artist’s entire lifespan and includes the artist’s home and studio, the museum is the only place in the world where visitors can experience a total immersion in the art and life of Charles Russell, considered by many to be the foremost artist of the American West.

Charles M. Russell is arguably America’s greatest artist—a largely self-taught artistic genius who captured not only an important time in America’s history, but also important and critical values that transcend his life.

The C. M. Russell Museum, through its governing body the Trigg-C.M. Russell Foundation, has endeavored to preserve and promote this icon of American art and history for the past 62 years.

We, like many non-profit cultural institutions around the country, have faced, and continue to face, declining museum attendance represented by the turnstile, an aging traditional membership, and a limited ability to add meaningfully to our collections when faced with competition from well-heeled private collectors. These realities are not going to change in the foreseeable future.

Unlike many of our contemporaries, we are actively addressing all these challenges.

We are:

• Actively seeking, and appealing to, younger museum goers through new media and technologies

• Embracing new and evolving technologies to showcase our collections

• Dramatically rethinking our educational components, and their outreach

• Cultivating new sources of traditional finance, and embarking on creative ways to (i) access collections short of purchase, and (ii) develop long-term relationships with key collectors desiring to preserve their legacy for the benefit of the public.

However, our most important distinguishing attribute is Charlie Russell himself. We have a sizeable collection of his important works. We have an important library of written materials and research about him, his work, and his place in history. We have his Great Falls home and studio. We have his Great Falls and Montana legacy. We have his iconic buffalo skull trademark. Charlie Russell is our brand, and no other institution can claim the same.

We also have much more, and it is in this direction we are strategically focused. Russell had the normal, and in some cases more than his share of, human frailties. But he was also keenly aware of the importance of wildlife, natural beauty, and the open American West. He was an environmentalist before the word had definition. His relationships with Native Americans are well documented—he clearly understood and appreciated the value of cultural diversity. He also portrayed in his art qualities that will forever stand the test of time— honesty, loyalty, curiosity, and the ability to laugh at one’s self. His many paintings, drawings and sculptures, in addition to being critically acclaimed art, capture these elements and more.

The Board of Directors and the management of the C.M. Russell Museum are determined to educate young and old to these magnificent qualities, and are embracing new technologies and new forms of distribution to deliver these important messages. Our mission remains to collect, preserve, research, interpret, and educate on the art and life of Charles Marion Russell; the art and life of his contemporaries; and the art of preceding and ensuing generations that depicts and focuses on the culture, life and country of Russell’s West— all in a thoroughly modern and enjoyable way. To do so, the following four goals will guide us for the next several years. These goals are not separate and discreet; rather they overlap and reinforce each other and our overall mission.

Vision

Sharing Russell’s West with Excellence

Mission

The mission of the C.M. Russell Museum is to collect, preserve, research, interpret, and educate on the art and life of Charles Marion Russell; the art and life of his contemporaries; and the art of preceding and ensuing generations that depicts and focuses on the culture, life, and country of Russell’s West.

Goals

  1. Redefining our mission: Russell more than the “cowboy”
  2. Enhance and broaden collections and embrace new media to present them
  3. Broaden educational outreach programs
  4. Maintain financial prudence and enhance flexibility

 

4starBanner

Click here view the C.M. Russell Museum's financial reports for 2016.

Click here to view the C.M. Russell Museum's Form 990 for 2015.

Click here to view the 2017 letter from Charity Navigator Awarding 4-Star Status

 

Coming Events and Exhibitions

BISON CAMP Pre-K

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BISON CAMP K-1

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O.C. Seltzer: Legacy in Oil

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Russell Log Studio

Russell’s log studio was built adjacent to his home in 1903. Made of western red cedar telephone poles, the studio is filled with authentic cowboy gear and Indian artifacts that Russell collected and used when he painted and sculpted.

Russell Home

The Charles M. Russell home is a blue, two-story frame house built in 1900 for $800. It is furnished with period pieces as well as items from the Russell family. When it was built, it was located in the most fashionable district in Great Falls.

Museum Store

The Museum Store features museum-quality gifts, collectables, books, and clothing. The store provides mail-order service and can ship items anywhere in the world.

Discovery Gallery

The Discovery Gallery provides an interactive space for families and children of all ages to explore Russell’s art and life in the Old West. It features period props, art activities, a fur-trade store, Indian Village, and chuck wagon.

Events and Classes

With an active schedule of workshops, classes, children's activities, and tours, the C.M. Russell Museum is a hub of scholarly activity in the community of Great Falls. Various educational opportunities for both young and old are offered year round.

Exhibitions

Permanent exhibitions at the museum include the Charles M. Russell Collection; The Bison: American Icon, Heart of Plains Indian Culture; Browning Firearms Collection; and the Russell Riders Sculpture Garden. The museum also hosts nationally-acclaimed visiting temporary exhibitions year round.



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