EKALAKA — Montana’s first county museum remains an extraordinary place.
“Our community is really proud of this museum, and they have donated a lot of local history,” said Chioko Hammel, director of the Carter County Museum. “We have objects from the 1800s, from the first families in Ekalaka and some of the first ranchers in the whole county. They’ve been collecting for the museum and supporting it financially since the 1930s.”
And it’s only fitting that Carter County, where so many important fossil finds have been unearthed, has a great dinosaur collection.
“Most people come to see the dinosaurs,” Hammel said. “They hear about all the paleontology in Carter County, and they want to see the duckbill, the triceratops and the tyrannosaur.”
The museum offers a chance to see dinosaur discoveries in the same area where they were found.
“A lot of people come in and say, I didn’t expect to find whole dinosaurs here,” Hammel said.
New this year, the museum has bones children can feel, plexiglass cases to replace glass and Jane, a cast of a T. rex skull — the most complete juvenile T. rex that’s been discovered — found in Carter County.
The museum also has artifacts of more recent history, highlighting homesteading and early ranching days, as well as local veterans.
“We also have an extensive Native American collection. We have a lot of weapons, tools and moccasins and showcase paleo-Indians. Carter County has the second oldest paleo-Indian site in Montana, and you can see the technology from when the mammoths were alive. They used a lot of different weapons, more spear points.”
The museum, which was founded in 1936, was in the high school until the building was demolished. Then the collection moved into a car garage built in 1926. Former museum director and science teacher Marshall Lambert organized a project to cover walls with petrified wood donated by local ranchers.
“He did research on the best way to install those so, they would be sturdy for years to come,” Hammell said. “They’re such odd shapes, and the effect is unusual.”