Postcard Russell at Fort Belknap Indian danceThe Frederic G. Renner Library, located in the museum, is a noncirculating research library dedicated to the appreciation and study of the art and artists of the American West, Montana and Western history, and Charles M. Russell. The library’s collection reflects the strengths of the C.M. Russell Museum and supports the educational and research needs of its staff and academic researchers.

The library collection includes books, serials, auction catalogues, exhibition catalogues, vertical files, and nonprint resources. This beautiful research center was established in 1987 and dedicated to the memory of Frederic G. Renner. Renner, who died in 1987 at the age of 89, spent his lifetime researching and collecting everything possible about Charlie Russell’s life and art.

Hours are currently by appointment only. Please call (406) 727-8787 to schedule an appointment. Food and drink are not permitted in the library. Belongings may be checked in the museum’s coat-check room. Purses, bags, and backpacks may be subject to inspection when visitors are leaving.

Transformation Into the Frederic G. and Ginger K. Renner Research Center

In order to accommodate the current and future storage needs of the research center, the existing library space is being retrofitted with a high density mobile shelving system that will increase the shelf capacity of the research center from approximately 850 linear feet to over 2,000 linear feet, allowing staff to properly shelve research center materials currently stored on book carts, in filing cabinets, in boxes on the library floor and on shelves in the archivist’s office, and in the object and art vaults. Consolidating storage of all research center collections to a secure, high density shelving system will improve findability of collection items as well as contribute to the preservation of the collections. The increased storage capacity will also allow the research center collections to continue to grow, including the ongoing acquisition of new publications as well as future archival donations.

A new reading room will be created in the office at the front of the research center, which will be equipped with a workstation for the staff member in charge of the library, a workspace and computer for researchers’ use, and a copier. Creating a distinct research space separate from the research center collections storage area and eliminating the need for staff to exit the reading room in order to make copies of collection materials for patrons will vastly improve collections security, as well as provide a quiet, pleasant space conducive to research. Both the reading room and library storage space will receive updates to lighting and flooring, and will be repainted. Two new workstations for staff, interns, or volunteers will be installed in the research center storage area.

The family and estates of Frederic and Ginger Renner have contributed a significant portion of the funding for the research center in the past as well as donated the Frederic G. and Ginger K. Renner Special Collection, a cornerstone of the C.M. Russell Museum’s archival collections. Accordingly, the Frederic G. Renner Library will be renamed to the Frederic G. and Ginger K. Renner Research Center in order to reflect the Renners’ shared contributions and the research center’s expanded scope. A selection of artifacts and rare books from the Renner collection will be placed on display in the reading room, including furniture and decorations from Frederic Renner’s home office.

In order to improve intellectual access to the research center collections, catalog records for publications and archival collections will be published in an Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC). By providing public access to the research center catalog, the museum will enable both staff members and outside researchers to discover collection items of which they would otherwise remain unaware, and to make advanced arrangements with research center staff to view specific items.

The public is invited to a special opening ceremony of the Frederic G. and Ginger K. Renner Research Center on Friday, September 8, 2017 at 11 a.m.


fredrennerWho was Frederic G. Renner?

Great Falls native Frederic Gordon Renner (1897–1987) spent his lifetime researching and collecting everything possible about Charlie Russell’s life and art. His parents were friends of Charlie and Nancy Russell. Like other neighborhood children, Renner watched Charlie at work in his studio. He was intrigued by Charlie’s flamboyant dress, vibrant paintings, and personality.

Renner had two very successful careers, and his legacy lives on in both fields. He was recognized internationally as a specialist in soil conservation and range management. He worked for the United States Department of Agriculture and headed its Range Management division for 26 years until his retirement in 1961.

After retirement, Renner devoted all his time to his Russell research. His wife, Ginger, a Russell expert in her own right, often explained her husband’s dedication to the study of Charlie Russell as an accident of birth. “I was born in Great Falls, Montana,” he once said, as though this early proximity to the celebrated Cowboy Artist would be sufficient to explain his 75 years of searching, collecting, and recording Russell’s extraordinary artistic output. Renner traveled extensively for the USDA and was always on the lookout for Russell works and information. He was an extremely thorough researcher and always took careful notes, wrote accurate descriptions, and whenever possible documented his findings with photographs. He did not tolerate errors or their perpetuation.

Renner always willingly shared his knowledge of Russell. For this reason, it is most appropriate that our library honors his memory.

For more library and research information and to view and download request forms, please use the links below:

Appraisal Information >>

Library Research Request Form >>

Library Curatorial Questions Form >>

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