Collections

The collections at the Carter County Museum span a wide range of natural and regional history.

The Carter County Museum is scientifically significant for its proximity to the surrounding Hell Creek Formation, a geological area known for bearing some of the nation’s most notable dinosaur specimens, including the Field Museum’s T. rex Sue and Thomas the T. rex at Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. The unique thing about this area is a thin layer of ash that preserves the Cretaceous extinction event. Sixty-six million years ago, an asteroid slammed into the Gulf of Mexico, creating a crater larger than Carter County, and was responsible for the world-wide disappearance of approximately 75 percent of all animal species, including the dinosaurs. Scientists from around the world make the trek to Ekalaka to study this extinction event, and the recovery period after it.

The museum boasts a large collection of Paleo-Indian artifacts, including pottery and points, and an extensive array of cultural objects. One of Montana’s oldest archaeological sites, The Mill Iron Site, is located in the area. Excavated in the 1980s, Mill Iron was a bison processing site that contains Goshen points and a mammoth bone piece that was used as a foreshaft on an atlatl dart. It dates back to 10,500 years ago. Historically, there were 18 tribes present in Carter County, including the Assiniboine, Sioux, Fort Belknap, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations. Ekalaka itself is named for Ijakalaka, an Oglala Sioux woman who was niece to Chief Red Cloud.

Many current Ekalaka residents are direct descendants of original homesteading families of the late 1800’s. These families see the museum as the primary steward of the community’s cultural history and donated relics of town life for generations, making for a robust cultural collection that includes everything from a taxidermied two-headed calf to a doll made of barbed wire to military uniforms from different American wars.
If you wish to research any items within the collection, feel free to make an appointment by calling us at 406-775-6886 or emailing us at: smoore@cartercountymuseum.org