The World Museum of Mining is an historic museum located in Butte, Montana. It is one of the few museums of its kind in the country that is actually located on an authentic historic mining site. The museum was first opened in 1963 and was the tangible result of ideas and brainstorming on the part of a civic organization called the Butte Exchange Club.
As a result of the collective efforts of the community at large, the museum was able to eventually become a reality when in 1964 the Anaconda Company donated the location of the Orphan Girl Mine for use as museum dedicated to preserving the rich and interesting history of mining in Butte. The name of the site (Orphan Girl) is a reference to the way the original mine was more or less isolated in its position on the western half of Butte's mining district. Before it was officially closed in 1956, the Orphan Girl mine is estimated to have produced in excess of 7.5 million ounces of silver.
The museum itself is home to an astounding number of exhibits revolving around various aspects of the mining industry in Butte. More than 66 of them are located in the museum's Mine Yard area alone, treating visitors to a look at a large variety of authentic mining equipment and machinery still in operational condition. The World Museum of Mining even features popular underground exhibits, archives, and tours. The underground tour treats museum patrons to a highly realistic and candid look at the Orphan Girl Mine from within. They're even fitted with hard hats, battery belts, and head lamps!
There are plenty of interesting exhibits located above ground as well that cover many points in regards to the Butte mining industry. These include, but are not limited to the following. The Miners' Memorial Garden was built in 2008 to honor and commemorate the sacrifices made by miners who lost their lives on the job. Another exhibit is dedicated specifically to the history and origins of the Orphan Girl Mine itself and includes a look at the still-visible 100-foot headframe. Hoist House allows museum visitors to not only view exhibits, but also climb inside the very cages that the miners once used to travel up and down the shafts.
The World Museum of Mining even features a faithfully reproduced 1890's mining town by the name of Hell Roarin' Gulch. Hell Roarin' Gulch include 15 historical structures still intact, as well as around 35 volunteer-constructed buildings, each packed with plenty of authentic artifacts from the period. Existing authentic buildings are also featured in Hell Roarin' Gulch. These include a school house, a superintendent's house, and two churches.
In addition to the exhibits, the World Museum of Mining also features an extensive gift shop where visitors can purchase souvenirs, books, videos, jewelry, Montana-made huckleberry culinary treats, and beautiful copper items to take home as keepsakes of their visit.