WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The National Park Foundation, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the National Park Service and Friends of the Little Bighorn Battlefield are announcing their collective efforts to construct a new visitor center at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana that will expand interpretive and educational opportunities for all park visitors.
The new visitor center is a significant step forward as the National Park Service works to make tribal artifacts and their interpretation more accessible to tribes and the public, and expand stories and perspectives about the multifaceted history and legacy of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The building itself will better protect museum collections through improved environmental controls, while its contemporary design will blend with the surrounding landscape, including large windows and a roof terrace with a view of the battlefield. With greater access to exhibits, enhanced functionality, and new areas for interpretive and educational programs, the facility will enable visitors to engage with a powerful place-based experience during their visit.
“The Helmsley Charitable Trust is honored to grant $4.5 million towards building a new visitor center at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument,” said Walter Panzirer, a Helmsley trustee. “This is a significant site in American history with an amazing story to tell. The new visitor center will preserve, protect, memorialize, and interpret the cultural and natural resources of the park, including the landscape and the park’s world-class artifact and document collection for future generations.”
With the 150th anniversary of the battle approaching on June 25-26, 2026, this new visitor center will enable the National Park Service and partners to provide visitors with an experience that takes in the historic significance of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
“The National Park Foundation is grateful to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for their transformative investment in the visitor experience at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument,” said National Park Foundation President and CEO Will Shafroth. “Thanks to the collaboration of numerous stakeholders, visitors will engage on an even deeper level with one of the most decisive battles in American history. We look forward to continuing to work with national, state, local, and tribal partners on this important project.”
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument commemorates the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn and its resulting effects on westward expansion. At the battle, Lakota and Cheyenne warriors defeated Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the U.S. 7th Cavalry.
“The new facility will improve interpretive and educational programming and honor the longstanding relationship among the National Park Service and tribes historically associated with the site,” said Wayne Challoner, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument superintendent. “Tribal input was a critical component in the overall planning process, which began nearly a decade ago, and will continue to play a significant role as we construct the visitor center, focus next on completing the curation facility and all the artifacts are returned.”
The planning process for the new visitor center is well underway and it is projected that it will open to the public in June 2024. Planning to complete an adjacent curation facility continues as the National Park Service works to secure funding to complete construction. The new visitor center will help to ensure that Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument continues to offer education and inspiration for current and future generations while generating economic benefits to local communities and the State of Montana.
In 2019, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument welcomed 241,000 visitors, which generated an estimated $14.4 million in visitor spending, supported 220 jobs, and resulted in $18.9 million in local economic impact.