The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula was established in 1975 by the local community to preserve what remained of the original Fort Missoula and to educate and inspire others to take an interest in the rich history of the area. Located on 32 acres of pristine land in the heart of historic Fort Missoula, the museum features an impressive collection with more than 40,000 objects, including 15 historic buildings and structures. The indoor galleries of the museum feature both permanent and temporary or traveling exhibits that focus on various events from the period of early exploration in the area to modern times. The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula aims to provide an unparalleled educational and cultural experience for both the local community and visitors alike.


© The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

Fort Missoula was a fort established in 1877 by the United States Army to protect settlers in Western Montana from the local Native American Indians. In addition to acting as a protector for the settlers, the fort also played host to the famous Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment in 1888, was a prison camp for Italian POWs during the World War II and for Japanese soldiers arrested as enemy aliens after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Built in response to urgent requests from the settlers and local townspeople wanting protection from marauding Western Montana Indian tribes, Fort Missoula was established as a permanent military post in 1877. Designed as an ‘open fort’ without walls, which was common to the west of the Mississippi, troops were required to take the offensive and patrol the surrounding areas opposed to simply sitting and watching. In 1888, the 25th Infantry Regiment arrived at Fort Missoula, one of four individual units formed after the Civil War and spent over a decade at the Fort testing the military potential of bicycles with arduous journeys such as a 1,900-mile trip from Fort Missoula to St. Louis.

Under the leadership of Congressman Joseph Dixon of Missoula, the Fort was remodeled into a modern complex of concrete buildings with several additions added between 1908 and 1914, including barracks, a new Officer's Row, and Post Hospital. During World War I, the Fort was used as a military training center to train mechanics and truck drivers of the Student Army Training Corps (SATC), and later as the Northwest Regional Headquarters for the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. It went on to become an alien detention center for non-military Italian men such as merchant seamen and crew during the Second World War in 1941 and was fondly known as ‘’Camp Bella Vista.’’ Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, over 650 Japanese-American men who were considered high risk were stationed at the camp for a short period before being moved on to other internment camps.

The camp continued to be used as a prison for military personnel awaiting court-martial following World War II until it was decommissioned in 1947 and formally again in 2001. Today the Fort is open to the public to explore and learn more about the history of the Fort and the role it played in the development of the area around it.

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© The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula offers a variety of educational programs and initiatives for both adults and children, as well as community outreach programs. Programs include classes, workshops, lectures, family events, Girl Scout Badge Days, and more, as well as festivals and theme days presented throughout the year. Community Outreach Programs include Fort Fizzle Trunk where students can have some fun reenacting local history using characters, costumes and role play to discover the challenges faced by military men at the fort during their time there. Another program is the Missoula History Through Children's Eyes Education Trunk, which is available for teachers and educators and presented by a museum docent. Other Outreach Programs include Learning From Objects, which explores the way people learn about and create histories, Fire Lookouts, which focuses on the historical development of firefighting methods, and "My Memories of the Frontier" by Captain Charles Rawn.

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3.Visitor Information

Visitor Information
© The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula is located at 3400 Captain Rawn Way, Missoula and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm (Labor Day Weekend - Memorial Day Weekend) and Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and Sunday 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm (Memorial Day Weekend - Labor Day Weekend). The grounds around the Museum are always open and free to the public, and guided tours of the Museum and the grounds can be arranged on request.

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3400 Captain Rawn Way, Missoula, MT 59804, Phone: 406-728-3476

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Things to Do in Montana: The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

  • History, Photo: The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula
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  • Cover Photo: The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula