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Fundraiser for museum roof hits crunch time

by By CYNTHIA LOPEZ For The Western News
| April 26, 2022 7:00 AM

Located in the heart of Libby, The Heritage Museum is no ordinary museum. The 12-sided log structure’s history and story hold a special and significant connection with local residents and the community.

According to museum information, the nonprofit was conceived in 1971 by Doug Porter following the death of his father, Western landscape painter Roy D. Porter. Doug wanted to fulfill his father’s dream of a museum in Libby and needed a place to house his father’s paintings and extensive collection of 1800-1900s artifacts.

Along with Doug, local residents collaborated with contractors, business owners, engineers and others to build the unique 13,500-square-foot structure that is known today as The Heritage Museum.

Fifty plus years later, the designated historical landmark still stands. However, just as any other edifice, wear and tear has occurred. The harsh Montana weather has caused leaks in its metal roof, and visible water damage has destroyed some walls and a few of the museum’s exhibits.

Plastic bags now cover some of the artifacts and displays, while pails and buckets sit along tar-stained concrete floors. Remnants of water stains have seeped in, finding ways through cracks and loose wood panels. Electrical outlets are exposed and computers close to areas where leaks have recurred, posing a danger to the building as well as to the volunteers who maintain and care for the museum.

According to museum officials, the most recent local bid to repair the roof structure came in at just over $400,000. Proposed work includes the replacement of rotted wooden roof framework down to the tongue and groove board. The new roof will look nearly exactly like the existing roof.

Museum officials note that the contractor is hoping to begin work by July, meaning the museum is on the clock to raise enough funds to make the repairs.

Mark Morain, Susan Castaneda and Sherry Turner are a few of the six volunteers who play an integral role in the day-to-day operations at The Heritage Museum. They volunteer and devote their time in order to keep the museum up and running. They’ve sent out more than 400 letters to Heritage members in hopes to recruit new volunteers, with few responses.

However, Turner has been prosperous with her grant-writing abilities, and the museum was fortunate to have received its largest grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities — a total of $86,000.

“The NEH Googled Libby and were fascinated with the rivers, the rich history and how informative and structured the museum was,” Turner explained.

With the grant, the museum has reached 88% of its fundraising goal for a new roof and other building maintenance needs. Yet, they still have a ways to go, which is why they have organized the inaugural Vintage Collectible Sale later this spring.

They are currently seeking vendors for the sale, with booths available May 6-7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the museum. The cost is $35 for a 10x10 space for the day, or $60 for two days. There will be entertainment, food and a special museum auction in conjunction to vendors, in order to help reach the fundraising mark.

Morain believes that The Heritage Museum is more than just a museum, “It’s a family of generations,” he said.

The Heritage Museum is closed for the season due to repairs, but will commence operating hours upon completion of the roof project.

A GoFundMe account for the roof project is online at gofund.me/4cd931b1. Learn more about the museum and the roof project at www.libbyheritagemuseum.org.