I’ll say it right off the bat, this one is totally biased. I ADORE this place. I have ever since I first went to school in Butte, I was able to work here my senior year as a tour guide, and I have a membership and visit every time I go to Butte! But, it is one of the top things to do in Butte so of COURSE I’m going to write about it! This is a long one ya’ll, and super in depth. Each part of the museum is in it’s own section so if you’re curious about one specific part of the museum just scroll down until you find that part!
The World Museum of Mining is unlike any other museum you’ve ever visited. It is a chance to really, fully immerse yourself in history. Not only does it have a recreation of an old time mining town (Hell Roarin’ Gulch), but also an underground tour into the Orphan Girl mine! There is also a rock room, the Orphan Girl Mineyard with some awesome mining equipment, and even an extensive doll collection! So there is literally something for everyone at this museum!
The basics: The museum is open from 9 am to 6 pm, except on Sunday’s they open at 10 am! Underground tours are at 9:30, 1, and 4:15 for the 65ft level tour. 100ft level tours are newer, and you get to go deeper into the Orphan Girl mine and into the restored shaft station! The 100ft level tours are at 11 and 2:30. Museum admission varies depending on what experiences you want at the Museum, which is super cool because you can fit it to any budget! The museum is also self guided (except for the underground tours) so you can really fit it into your schedule. *Little known tip!*– Museum admission is good for two days! So if you can’t fit it all in in one day, you can come back a second! Just keep your receipt! Also- the museum offers AAA, senior, and military discounts with ID, so be sure to ask about those!
Inside the museum is where the gift shop, rock & mineral room, and doll room are located. The gift shop is also where you pay admission and reserve your spot on the underground tours! Although- they do suggest making reservations online so you make sure you have a spot. Once admission has been paid, you can head into the main hallway! On the left side of the hallway is the Rock and Mineral room. Coincidentally- yours truly has spent a LOT of time photographing and cataloging these wonderful specimens! A majority of this collection was collected and donated by Roy Garrett, who used to work at the Orphan Girl Mine herself! On the right side of the hallway is where the Samie Keith Doll and Dollhouse exhibit is located. While there is some mining and old-timey themed doll houses, there is also a lot of collectible and interesting dolls for viewing! At the end of the hallway is a door which leads out to the outside portion of the museum!
Hell Roarin’ Gulch is an outdoor exhibit (so bring a light jacket or rain coat if it’s raining!). It’s a recreation of an 1890’s mining town, with many different structures and exhibits. School houses, churches, assayers, forest ranger cabin, and even a little (family friendly) red light district! You have to look really hard to see the mannequin in the window and she is clothed so don’t worry about the little ones figuring it out, but it’s a great laugh for the adults in your group! Each exhibit has awesome items in it, and some even have QR codes for more information! So make sure you download a QR code reader before you head to the museum!
Just outside of Hell Roarin’ Gulch is the Orphan Girl Mineyard. Tell ya what, you can’t miss seeing this part for sure. The centerpiece of the mine yard is the 110-foot tall Orphan Girl Headframe. Get up close and personal, reach out, and touch the history here. Walk into the hoist house to learn about mining history, walk underneath the headframe, and into the ore house to visualize the history of working here. It really is a spectacular feeling to see this amazing structure rise above you, and be able to really feel the history.
TripAdvisor guests can’t be wrong, and they all say you MUST check out the underground tours! As a previous underground tour guide myself, I will tell you this is the best kept secret in Butte America for people visiting. There are two different tour options, the 65ft and the 100ft level tour. All of the tour guides bring their own stories and histories to the table, so even if you take the tour many times, if you get a different guide each experience will be its own tour. Tour guides currently include an electrician who worked in the mines, a couple of Butte miners, a Montana history / Butte history teacher, and more! What I love about this tour is it’s so hands on. There are so many people who have never been underground before, in a cave let alone a mine. First, the guide gets you suited up in a hard hat and cap lamp. Safety first, plus it helps you look like a miner so that’s pretty awesome. You then enter the portal, where you will decline to the 65ft level first. Feel history come alive underground, where it is fully encouraged to reach out and touch the equipment, board the cages in the shaft, and ring the bell. Further down then that is the 100ft level, which has been fully restored to its original glory. Many pieces in here are original, and are really amazing to see. My absolute favorite part of the 100ft level tour is the Orphan Girl vein. You don’t see this on the 65ft level, and if you’re a rock nerd like I am it’s a must see. The Orphan Girl mined sphalerite, galena, and rhodochrosite as its main minerals! See the overshot mucker (used by Montana Tech students during class) mining the vein, and look at the rocks that have been blasted out! The 65ft and 100ft levels have been built/restored, and maintained by volunteers and Montana Tech students!
World Museum of Mining tips & tricks:
- Museum admission is good for 2 days!
- The museum offers AAA, senior, member, and military discounts so be sure to ask about those!
- Check out the museums Facebook page for special event info, like the AWESOME haunted underground, gallows frame bus tours, Miners Union Day, and vendor events!
- The museum is HUGE, so bring good shoes. Closed toed shoes are HIGHLY recommended for going underground because… well…. you’ll be underground. It does occasionally get muddy and it is made of dirt.
- Bring a light jacket! A majority of the museum is outdoors, and underground can be pretty chilly even if it’s 100 degrees outside.
- There is a “house” on the headframe, a lot of people don’t realize you can walk into it! Yes- you get to walk into a headframe, the only one in Butte that you can do that! If your facing the headframe, walk towards the back of the headframe there is a set of stairs toward the rear. You can NOT climb the main stairs that lead to the top of the headframe!
- Make reservations for the tours! I can NOT stress this enough. The tours do get booked up quickly! If you DO show up and want to take a tour, wait in the gift shop before tour time to see if some parties that pre-booked did not show up. You may be able to still get on!
- Have family history in Butte? Ask the gift shop people about the museum archives! The archives have great photos, books, and other materials.
- The underground tour has a very steep decline that can be difficult to climb. No children under 4 are allowed underground, and no children under 6 are allowed on the 100ft tour. I personally recommend that if you cannot climb hills for any reason, you don’t attend the underground tour. Out of shape is okay, but if you need a wheelchair or have recently had leg surgery I would not recommend it.
I hope you enjoyed this SUPER in depth write up of the World Museum of Mining! Have you visited? What are your favorite parts? We’d love to see comments and pictures!!