Montana's Bair Family Museum

A Montana family's new museum showcases their extensive and eclectic art collection.

Beaded vest, Bair Family Museum, Martinsdale, Mont., image

A man's beaded vest from the late 19th century is part of the Bair Family Museum collection.

Edward S. Curtis photogravures and Paul Storr neoclassical silver displayed near Montana’s Upper Musselshell River? You bet—in the new Charles M. Bair Family Museum in Martinsdale between the Little Belt and Crazy mountains. The 7,300-square-foot native stone, climate-controlled museum houses six galleries featuring paintings by Charles M. Russell and Joseph Henry Sharp, American Indian garments and rugs, and a range of portraits, cityscapes, and landscapes by European and American artists. Its red roof matches those of the 20-room Bair ranch house and sheep barn, now a museum and shop.

Bair ran more than 300,000 head of sheep, in 1910 shipping 1.5 million pounds of wool east on 47 railroad cars labeled “the largest wool clip grown by one individual on the Northern American continent.” After earning a fortune in the Klondike gold rush and in Montana businesses, Bair lived large in the West, befriending artists and politicians ranging from Will Rogers to President Theodore Roosevelt.

The museum’s Edouard Cortès paintings and French antiques reflect the taste of Bair’s daughters, Marguerite and Alberta, who began collecting in Portland and Vancouver and kept up their habit during trips to Paris and London. Open daily from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day; admission is $5. (406) 572-3314, bairfamilymuseum.org.

Photography courtesy of Bair Family Museum

This article was first published in July 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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