The Western Heritage Center is a regional museum located in the Historic District in downtown Billings, Montana. This museum used to be the Parmly Billings Memorial Library. Built in 1901, the library turned museum houses a collection of artifacts about the history of the Yellowstone River Valley.
The Western Heritage Center is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The museum opened in 1971 after a organized group of concerned citizens prevented the building from meeting the wrecking ball and being turned into a parking lot.
The museum is housed in the Parmly Billings Memorial Library building, a Richardsonian Romanesque building built in 1901 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The WHC's mission is to promote an appreciation of the history of the Northern High Plains by collecting, sharing, and preserving stories and artifacts of Yellowstone River Valley life.
In 2001, the WHC received the Montana Governor's Humanities Award, being only the second organization to receive the honor reserved for individual contributions to the Humanities. In 2002, the WHC became the first Smithsonian Institution affiliate museum in the Northern Plains. Beginning in 2004, and presently running through 2008, WHC received federal appropriations from the United States Department of the Interior for the American Indian Tribal Histories Project, a program contributing to the preservation of Crow and Northern Cheyenne tribal histories.
The Western Heritage Center is committed to providing public programs at minimal or no cost. Programs include the monthly High Noon lecture and video series, teacher workshops, school traveling trunks, eight traveling exhibits, partnerships with regional museums, and active participation in local events. The WHC coordinates five to seven changing exhibits each year.
The Western Heritage publishes books, video materials, and education kits relating to regional history. The museum cares for 17,000 artifacts that illustrate and document Yellowstone River Valley history.