The museum in Polson, Montana – sometimes called the Smithsonian of the West – has an impressive collection featuring more than 340,000 items.
Inside, there are floor-to-ceiling cabinets and displays with Native American artifacts, dishes, guns, kitchen items, old toys, phonographs, World War II uniforms and patriotic signs. Near the back door, there’s a full-size soda fountain. The counter, floor and walls are filled with signs, equipment and other items associated with an old-time soda fountain.
Outside, there is a maze of buildings representing historic businesses along gravel streets. Some of the buildings are original from the region and have been moved onto the museum site. For example, there is a log cabin with a grass sod roof, a one-room schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, a drugstore, a general store, a 1948 gas station and a barn with horse-drawn wagons and implements.
There also are sheds with antique cars, over snow vehicles, motorcycles, tractors and boats. One new building displays an impressive collection of rifles and pistols. The dentist’s office with manual tooth drill will give you chills.
Other items outside at the museum include a helicopter, wooden windmill, 1971 A70 jet plane, military jeeps and trucks, steam locomotive and a 65-foot tugboat called the Paul Bunyan used to tow logs on Flathead Lake.
There’s so much to see, it’s worth checking the museum map. It might cross your mind that if some of these items could talk, what a story they would tell. The next best thing would be to find Gil Mangels, who founded the museum in 1981. Often, he is available and is happy to answer questions.
Because he has personally accepted the local donations, moved the historic buildings or purchased practically every item displayed, he is the go-to guy for questions.
Over the years, this museum has been his and his wife’s passion. He has applied for numerous grants to keep the lights on. Several sculptures scattered around the grounds that he built from spare and extra metal parts are for sale. The money raised is used to benefit the museum.
One of Mangels’ passions within a passion is the collection of more than 70 motorcycles. There is a restored 1912 Harley and three large showcases of cycle memorabilia. When a video or movie set require some historic prop, Mangels finds what they need. Also, he will be hired as an extra if the prop needs to be started and driven.
Perhaps the best description of the museum comes from visitors’ comments: “Really neat place full of treasures of all kinds! If you like the show ‘American Pickers,’ the Miracle of America Museum is a must see!”
Another review: “Almost drove by without stopping. What a mistake that would have been. … It was a museum unlike we have ever seen because of the variety and uniqueness. The largest collection of ‘stuff’ we have ever seen.
“So, explore this place. Find some historic thing that that you have never seen before or something that brings back warm memories. That will make the Miracle of America Museum’s ‘stuff’ seem to become useful and alive.”
Read the article at The Spokesman-Review
Evidence of these businesses in the form of souvenirs, photos, and various forms of memorabilia has been collected for almost 25 years and is displayed as part of the vast “Montana” collection at the Miracle of America Museum (MOAM), just south of Polson. Gil Mangels, founder of this non-profit museum, is happy to show you where these souvenirs, advertising items, and other memorabilia are displayed. Items may be as tiny as a spoon, or matchbook, and other trinkets, to vintage state highway maps. New building for 2019 includes a recreated WWII military bomber crew barracks and a recently built antique gunsmithing shop. Look for Snoopy and Charlie Brown on air patrol in full size bi-plane.
“Enchanting – Alluring – Majestic Glacier National Park. Whatever adjectives you use is OK and it could even be profitable. For decades, entrepreneurs have used the draw of Glacier National Park (GNP) to benefit their existing company or start a business.
Magazine ads from National Geographic to Cappers Farmer, tout viewing the beauty of GNP by Great Northern Railway’s Empire Builder. The more persons that the railroad could entice to buy a ticket and become a GN traveler, of course, the more GN could “Build the Empire”, to use a play on words.
Many tourists would attach a felt banner to their car’s radio antenna, or use windshield stickers, luggage stickers, or license plate toppers to brag that they were among the fortunate who had been to Glacier National Park. Sold by numerous souvenir and gift shops (sometimes called tourist traps) these items made money and the Park received free advertising.
While the Montana Highway Commission and some Department of the Interior maps were printed for free distribution, many others printed maps and travel guides for sale. The MOAM is believed to have Montana’s largest and most complete collection of road maps on permanent display. The beautiful cover art certainly used the breathtaking beauty of GNP a good share of the time. A 1941 Montana Highway map states, “We have more scenery than we can handle by ourselves – Come and help us look at it.” Intermountain Bus Lines time tables, dating back to the late 40s advertise, “The Mountain Route to Glacier Park.” Some of the books or booklet titles in the MOAM’s exhibits and collections date back to 1924.
In the “MOAM Village” behind the main building, outside displays show an important part of GNP’s winter history. The lineup includes four rare vehicles, such as one of GNP’s first snowplows, a one-of-a-kind, maintenance-shop built Snowtrac, and a 1952 Tucker Snow Cat, which had tracks on the rear and skis on the front. The ingenuity of the Park Crew is indicative of the spirit of the early-day pioneers.
In the “Museum Village” you’ll also glimpse other GNP references as well in various parts of the museum. The 45” X 65” picture of Glacier spent its early days in the Proctor Hotel, but now it is part of the recreated 1912 bank at the museum. The vintage motorcycle collection displays photos of adventurous early day bikers in GNP. Harley Davidson “Enthusiast” magazine covers from the 1930s to the 50s, often feature touring bikers with prominent Park features as a backdrop. Displayed here is a September 3, 1929 motorcycle permit with unusual instructions such as "Sound your horn, Stay out of ruts" and “Horse drawn vehicles have the right of way.” The cyclist, upon writing his mother stated, “It is beautiful but cold up here. Only wish I had longer to stay” He was headed home to Long Beach California the next morning.
The MOAM collection is an important part of the Glacier Park Story. The livelihood of many individuals and families is owed to the opportunities the Park provided. The MOAM collection is a tribute to the ingenuity and imagination of those brave souls who ventured forth, gambled, or even dared to hang their “Open for Business” shingle out for all to see. Many of the displayed articles not only put beans on the table, they also helped bring more visitors to Montana and the Park. The MOAM is happy to be a part of preserving the GNP’s rich history.”
9 AM to 5 PM daily
Open all year
The Miracle of America Museum, Polson, Montana, located on Memory Lane has many nicknames, but “The Smithsonian of the West” is probably the most fitting. Tracing America’s history from the walking plow to walking on the moon is easy when you’ve got the largest and most diversified collection in Montana. Just the military exhibits alone go from Minuteman to Desert Sand and you might get a bit choked up with gratitude for our veterans viewing over 30 military vehicles and thousands of pieces of war memorabilia. When a teenage girl says that the Miracle of America Museum is the “Awsomest” she is not just talking about the numerous kid friendly, interactive things interspersed with the 42 buildings in the 4.5 acre village outside. Another student wrote in the comment book,”I wish they would teach this stuff in school”.
Over 500 firearms, 70 vintage motorcycles, dolls, toys, mural dioramas, cars, boats, agriculture, we’ve got it all covered. Open daily, year ’round from 9 to 5. Extended hours by chance or appointment may be possible in the summer. Average visit time is 2 hrs., but many folks spend all day and say they’ll come back when they have more time.
Wheelchair accessible, but suggest fat tires for outside. Numerous rest seating on the grounds. Annual Live History Days event the 3rd weekend in July.
See the full article at Mission Valley Montana Museums
Visit Trip Advisor