Downtown Missoula Heritage Interpretive Plan

Downtown Missoula is undergoing a period of unprecedented growth and redevelopment. A flurry of construction activity is bringing forth exciting development in the form of new and remodeled hotels, housing, businesses, shops, restaurants, and even a library. The recently completed Downtown Master Plan presents a far-reaching vision for community design. As the downtown cultural landscape evolves during this pivotal time, Missoula is presented with an opportunity to both embrace change and to celebrate the characteristics and values that make its Downtown unique – it’s heritage.

The Missoula Downtown Heritage Interpretive Plan is designed to guide downtown heritage interpretation by encouraging audiences to make meaningful connections to the shared human experience represented there. It identifies interpretive goals and issues, examines existing conditions, and provides recommendations to implement over a period of time. It also serves as an instructional tool and source of inspiration for interpretive practitioners. More than anything, it presents a vision for a comprehensive heritage program that will shape the downtown experience and celebrate the distinct character of the community by tying together key natural and cultural resources into a cohesive network.

The draft Downtown Missoula Heritage Interpretive Plan is ready for review!

Downtown Missoula Heritage Interpretive Plan

Do you have thoughts, questions or comments? Send them into us at [email protected].

HRA’s Interpretive Planning Team
  • James Grant, MA, CIP, Historical Research Associates, Inc.
  • Morgen Young, MA, CIP, Historical Research Associates, Inc.
  • Kayla Blackman, MA, Historical Research Associates, In.c
  • Eldon Potter, Bryan Potter Design
Interpretive Planning Advisory Group
  • Alan Newell, Missoula Downtown Foundation
  • Tom Benson, Arts Missoula
  • Emy Scherrer, City of Missoula
  • Jolene Brink, Missoula Historic Preservation Commission
  • Linda McCarthy, Downtown Missoula Partnership
  • Barb Neilan, Destination Missoula
  • Robert Giblin, Downtown Missoula Partnership
  • Courtney LeBlanc, Missoula Public Art Committee
  • Kyle Volk, University of Montana
  • Kalina Wickham, Downtown Missoula Partnership
  • Matt Lautzenheiser, Historical Museum at Fort Missoula
  • Kristjana Eyjolfsson, Historical Museum of Fort Missoula
Acknowledgments

The Missoula Downtown Heritage Interpretive Planning Team would like to extend its gratitude to the Montana Department of Commerce for supporting this project and all of the individuals and organizations who took the time to speak to us. Thank you to the Board of Directors of the Missoula Downtown Foundation who personally supported this effort every step of the way. And a special thanks to the volunteers who served on the interpretive planning advisory group for their work guiding this effort throughout the process.

About the Process

In 2018, the Downtown Missoula Partnership collaborated with the Missoula Historic Preservation Office and other Downtown Missoula stakeholders to form a Downtown Missoula Heritage Committee. The fruit of this effort appeared in the development of a downtown heritage program they called Unseen Missoula. The interpretive offering, modeled after a highly successful special event of the same name, consisted of a guided tour through several historic downtown buildings. They soon added a second tour focused on the historic riverfront and the story of Missoula’s redevelopment over time. The initial success of Unseen Missoula was evidenced by a season’s worth of tours selling out in a matter of weeks.

The popularity of Unseen Missoula led the heritage committee to consider interpretive planning in order to chart a path forward for future downtown interpretation. In support of this effort, the Montana Department of Commerce awarded the Missoula Downtown Foundation (MDF) a tourism grant to begin the interpretive planning process. MDF and Historical Research Associates, Inc., (HRA), a historical consulting firm headquartered in Downtown Missoula since 1974, provided the remaining resources to produce the plan. The City of Missoula Historic Preservation Office provided oversight and served as an active participant throughout this effort.

The interpretive planning process began in January 2019 with the first in a series of planning meetings held with an interpretive planning advisory group assembled by the MDF (for a list of HRA’s team and advisory group participants, see Planning Resources). Over the course of the spring and summer of 2019, the advisory group convened for planning meetings led by HRA’s interpretive planners. As the process evolved, HRA’s team personally contacted more than two dozen community stakeholders and potential partners to provide an overview of the process and plan. Moreover, the interpretive planning team hosted a public open house in April 2019 to share information on the plan and to solicit public feedback.

This interpretive plan is presented in four parts. The first part provides the interpretive foundation, which is intended to guide all subsequent interpretive design and media, as well as serve as a resource for anyone developing exhibits, tours, outdoor elements, digital content, and more. The second part describes Downtown Missoula’s existing conditions relative to heritage interpretation and interpretive facilities under development. The third part outlines specific short-, mid-, and long-term interpretive recommendations, based on existing site conditions and current plans surrounding the redesign of certain Downtown Missoula features. The fourth part provides additional resources for developing interpretation and other information about the interpretive planning process.