The manager of a local archaeological site where visitors can see centuries of history said work is on track to open a new interpretive center in time for the 50th anniversary of the first excavations there, and new funding has been found to upgrade the buildings housing the site’s displays.
H. Earl Clack Memorial Museum Board Member Eli Salapich, who as an employee of Lotton Construction is overseeing the work on the interpretive center for the Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump, said the painting of the interior of the building should be done this week and the carpet should be laid next week.
When the funding for the projects at the site — $100,000 comprising $66,000 in state Tourism Infrastructure Improvement Program money and $34,000 in county matching funds — was less than the bids that came in on the projects, some juggling by the state tourism department and Bear Paw Development Corp. saved and expanded those projects.
The TIIP money was used to pay for materials and expenses to have the YouthBuild program housed at Montana State University-Northern build the interpretive center. Money from the museum funding foundation paid for upgrading exhibit buildings on the site, which counted toward the required match.
Anna Brumley, who manages the site, said the interpretive center should be open for the start of the site’s season June 1.
That coincides with a special anniversary, she added. While her husband, archaeologist John Brumley, discovered the site as a child in October 1961, the state archaeological society began the excavations there 50 years ago this spring.
The excavations are at the location where Native American cultures for centuries drove bison off the bluff overlooking the Milk River, butchering and processing the animals to provide materials for food, clothing, tools and other items.
Anna Brumley said the site also secured some funding to complete more upgrades on the exhibit buildings that house and protect the excavations, which are part of the tours given at the site.
A private funding foundation granted $30,000 to the site, which, combined with a $7,500 donation by Havreite Antoinette “Toni” Hagener, will pay for replacing the fourth exhibit building, Brumley said. The last task will be to move the final remaining building.
“All the artifacts will be saved at that point, ” she said.
Elaine Morse, chair of the museum foundation board, commended the Brumleys for writing the grant application which brought in the $30,000.
Brumley said that the award was not as much as they asked for, but she has been encouraged to apply again, which could provide money to do some necessary excavation and cleanup of the site.
She also said that work is progressing in the planning for the Hands on History event set at the Holiday Village Mall April 21, and encouraged people to volunteer to help at the event. Displays and activities give children and youths a hands-on feel for local history at the annual museum foundation fundraiser.
Brumley said in an interview that the sponsorships for the fundraiser have been excellent this year, with business sponsorship meaning 13 of the 31 activities will be free.
She said the organizers also have found some horses which again will be at Hands on History on which to give rides, always a very popular item at the fundraiser.