Bair Museum

July 08, 2016  •  2 Comments

This has been a bucket list item for a while and we were pleasantly surprised to find such a gem out in the middle of nowhere (Martinsdale, MT).  For $5 ($3 for seniors) you do get your money's worth. This museum and homestead is of the Charles M. Bair family.   The Bair daughters back in the 60s knew they wanted to leave their family legacy as a place for Montanan's and others to see their huge collection of mostly European works of art, furniture and decor.  The museum itself opened in 2011 and it was agreed between my Mom and me that we probably enjoyed the galleries as much or more than the tour of the house.   Still there is a lot to be seen and it is worth the small fee.  Big bang for the buck!

Mom and I agreed that these people were definitely "collectors" which was fun to see but if you are more into the reality of pioneer life, this wasn't it.  These people had big money but Charles Bair (the Father) truly was quite a business man.

The galleries right now contain some amazing Native American beadwork, Plains Indian ledger drawings (my favorite), all of the artwork from the house (Edwardian to Charlie Russel) as well as an exhibit called Light on Glass - photogravures (a very interesting process where a copper plate is coated with a light-sensitive gelatin tissue which had been exposed to a film positive, and then etched, resulting in a high quality intaglio print that can reproduce the detail and continuous tones of a photograph) by Edward S. Curtis who has a large collection of these prints recording the American Indians (not without some criticism though).  Another surprise to me was the connection the Bair family had with Chief Plenty Coups.   Since I've been to the Chief Plenty Coups State Park it was cool to know.

Here are some shots of the ledger drawings (photos were allowed as long as you didn't use flash) so they are a little weird in color.

I really enjoyed the Charlie Russel sketches that were Christmas cards and letters.   

At one point in time Charles Bair ran 300,000 head of sheep on his ranch so the sheep display in the barn (the original barn is now museum displays and a gift shop) was appropriate.  I of course have to share the writing about the sheep herders dog.   There is also a replica of a sheep herders wagon outside. The "original" RV!  LOL I also enjoyed the small fishing display in the barn.  The coolest photos showed the 2 girls as youngsters with what looked like Pacific Salmon (the family lived in Portland for a time) that were as long as the girls were tall.

From there we were off to the tour of the house.  It was explained that this house was really "pieced together" over the years, adding the garage, moving a cabin over and attaching it to the original house, adding on here and there.  It is quite a maze inside and chocked full of collectibles.    We didn't see the 2nd story as they only open that once a year apparently.    Our only complaint was that even after the docent started the tour, twice, the museum staff sent additional visitors into the group.   They don't get THAT many visitors that they needed to do that and frankly it kind of ruined the tour with the docent having to repeat things, the additional visitors asking questions already answered etc.   So just know that may happen if you go.    The tour I think took maybe an hour and here are some shots in and outside of the house.

A pretty setting and well preserved for sure. This was one of the buildings they moved and "added on" to the house.  It is called The Office.  

The formal dining room as you probably guessed. I'll say the kitchen was probably my favorite.   Loved the creamy yellow color (not everyone's cup of tea) and the backsplash has Scottish Coat of Arms motifs as the one daughter married a Scot.   Yes I asked and yes, that is Fiestaware! Even after the kitchen was remodeled to use the new-at-the-time GE appliances it was said that the old cookstove remained in use because it was indeed the "only" way to bake good bread.

Sorry the color in the shot below isn't quite right but you get the idea. The root cellar actually is all concrete.   That curve on the top of the doors flows all the way through the inside to the back.  Interesting that they curved the roof concrete back then.  HUGE cellar though.

The old cooks cabin. Never one to pass up taking some shots of old wagons you know!


Linda W(non-registered)
How wonderful that places like these have been preserved for all to enjoy! I'll have to look it up next time I'm in Mt.
Far Side(non-registered)
What a fun place to visit! I like the yellow kitchen and the red floor! They seemed to like the color red. That sheep dog story was great! I enjoyed seeing the sheep herders wagon too! :)
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