The Nevada City Museum & Music Hall: A Historic Gem

Experience the Gold Rush Era at the Nevada City Museum & Music Hall

The Gold Rush Era forever changed the region that is now Southwest Montana. Stories of rags to riches abounded as people flocked to the area in search of gold. The stories were as wild as the countryside they occurred in, from the saloon shootouts to the public hangings. History unfolded with each ounce of gold extracted from the ground.

Today, the Nevada City Museum & Music Hall in Nevada City, Montana provides one of the most immersive history experiences in the state as they welcome visitors to explore an era (over 100 years ago) marked by vigilante justice on the Montana frontier. If you like museums or living history experiences, then you will be in for a treat when visiting the Nevada City Museum & Music Hall!

Nevada City Museum and Music Hall

While there are no saloon shootouts at this museum, during your visit you can expect to see a wide variety of demonstrations by living history interpreters dressed in period-appropriate clothing using authentic period-accurate antiques such as firearms, blacksmithing tools, weaving equipment, and more! *Living History is planned on the weekends throughout the summer – make sure to check their schedule!

History of the Museum

The Nevada City Museum has an interesting history of how it came to be. Ultimately, we have a man by the name of Charles Bovey, and his family, to thank. When the last of the gold mines in the area closed in the 1940s and the population severely decreased as a result, Charles Bovey started buying properties in the area and invested in the buildings’ much needed preservation with the vision of preserving the area’s rich history for future generations. In the process, he and his wife Sue also moved a collection of historic buildings sourced from around Montana to Nevada City, much of which can be seen today at the Nevada City Museum and Music Hall.

During the Bovey’s multi-decade work of restoration and collection efforts, Charles also became passionate about collecting musical instruments – specifically of the player piano type! A variety of automated music machines were added to the collection over the years, such as roll pianos, violanos, band organs and more from Montana and beyond.

Let’s dig into what you can expect while visiting the museum!

Exhibit Buildings

The Nevada City Museum is truly a unique museum experience that is not to be missed! This museum collection is home to over 100 buildings from the late 1800s-early 1900s. The buildings are configured like a western frontier-era town, complete with a variety of shops to stop by and view – all set up with antiques from the era and arranged like they would have been had the shop been open for business over a century ago. This museum houses one of the largest collections of artifacts from this era outside of the Smithsonian. The items and buildings you will see here as you walk through are not replicas – it’s the real thing!

While some of the buildings were acquired from further away, there is a significant collection from just the state of Montana. For example, you’ll see a saddle shop from Fort Benton where Thomas Francis Meagher signed a treaty, as well as a barber shop that once stood in Elkhorn, Montana, not to mention the post office that was moved from outside of Twin Bridges, Montana or the Engine Company which resided in Basin, Montana. It suffices to say there is a rich history housed at this incredible museum!

Living History

The Nevada City Museum transcends the stereotypical four-walled museum with artifacts and infographics on display – this museum is designed for you to experience what it would have been like to live in a frontier mining town at the height of the Montana Gold Rush. Most weekends throughout the summer between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend, living history interpreters dress in period-specific clothing and provide historically accurate live demonstrations – from learning the card game faro at the saloon to seeing a blacksmith work in the metalsmith shop, and more! The living history interpreters bring history to life!

Living History in Nevada City, MT

Music Hall

The cherry on top of an already enriching museum visit is the Music Hall, which you pass through to enter and exit the townsite. As previously noted, Charles Bovey found incredible joy in collecting some of these automated music machines which resulted in one of the largest collections of player pianos in the world. When you visit, make sure to bring some quarters, because the music hall is packed with music machines that are expertly maintained and waiting for you to enjoy! Listen in awe as you are transported to a different era through the music of a bygone time.

Player Piano - Montana

How to visit the Museum

The Nevada City Museum is open during the summer every day from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, oftentimes offering an extended season with reduced hours in September. For current hours, please visit the Virginia City website.

To see the living history interpreters in action, make sure to visit on a Saturday or Sunday during the summer! Their schedule and other updates can be found on their Facebook page!

Visiting Nevada City & Virginia City

We are sure your visit to this area will be memorable for years to come! Virginia City and Nevada City are about 1.5 miles away from each other, so a visit to one town is practically a visit to both! There are a variety of things to do while you are there beyond visiting the Nevada City Museum- such as riding the train, catching a live theater performance, panning for gold, and more. The community has teamed up to offer visitors packages and specials for their trip to this historic place.

Virginia City - Alder Gulch Shortline

For more ideas on things to do in Virginia City and Nevada City, check out our blog about Visiting Virginia City!