By Tim Leeds 

Museum grand opening this weekend


Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson

Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump tour guide Teresa Buerkle opens the gate to the buffalo jump and the new Interpretive Center this morning. Wahkpa Chu'gn is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Labor Day.

People have a chance to see history with new faces this weekend with the grand opening planned for Havre's local museum, and a new center at the adjacent archaeological site.

A grand opening is set for 3 p. m., Saturday, at the new location of the H. Earl Clack Museum, on the east end of the Holiday Village Mall near Sears.

John Bruington, museum manager, told the Hill County Museum Board during its monthly meeting Monday that the new location is receiving good reviews. He praised the work board members and other volunteers did in setting the new displays.

"(We've received) a lot of wonderful comments, " he said. "You guys did a super job, and people are amazed to hear that the museum is smaller in size. They really feel it is bigger. "

Big R Stores took over the space on the west end of the mall that used to house the museum, expanding that store's space.

Bruington and volunteers worked to move the artifacts and put them in new displays in the location on the west end.

Anna Brumley, manager of the Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump north of the mall, said visitation is high at that site, including in the new interpretive center, built at the entrance to the archaeological site, that opened this month.

Brumley said the center, constructed at Montana State University-Northern by students in the YouthBuild Program then erected behind the Holiday Village, was mostly completed May 31, with a little finishing work on the roof and some other minor construction to be completed soon.

The bison kill site has seen 489 visitors, compared to 274 at the same time last year, and 61 people had visited the interpretive center alone, she said.

"We have been doing quite well, " Brumley said.

Work on replacing or rehabilitating another exhibit display house on the site's excavations is expected to be completed in two to three weeks, with final work on displays upgraded last year also expected to be complete soon.

Brumley said a grand opening for the interpretive center is tentatively scheduled for July 21.

She said many people have stopped by the interpretive center who didn't have enough time to tour the site, but said they would return for the tour on their way back through Havre, or would bring their family for the tour.

She said visibility still is a problem — many people, including local residents, don't know the site's location.

Brumley said the staff of the site is having a 20-foot banner made telling people the site's tours are located behind the mall This banner will be placed at the front of the Holiday Village parking lot in front of the teepee just off the highway.

Elaine Morse, chair of the museum funding foundation, said a local resident is planning on making and donating a quilted buffalo flag which can be flown on a large flagpole donated for use at the interpretive center. It hopefully will be visible from the highway, she said.

She added that the large sign displayed on the interpretive center helps with the site's visibility.

Bruington said having the museum and Wahkpa Chu'gn closer together also is helping. He said he sends everyone who comes to the museum over to visit the interpretive center.

"People are often coming from you to us, " he added. "We're so close now. "

Brumley added that people at Wahkpa Chu'gn also are requesting brochures for the historical site of Fort Assinniboine south of Havre.

Bruington said he also has been contacted by people who write for tourism publications who want information about local sites.

"And, all of a sudden, we are traveling all over the world …, " he said. "Things like this are starting to crop up. We are hearing people from Helena and Great Falls, people from tourism (saying) they want to do things with Havre and Hill County. Like I say, I think we're on a roll. "


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