Don Woerner

Laurel veterinarian Don Woerner stands next to Ernie, the unique bison that he had a taxidermist create to show the bone structure as well as the outside in one display.

The Carbon County Historical Society & Museum in Red Lodge has suffered from a steady decline of donations and support over the last decade but is hoping a new exhibit, new director and programming will help turn things around.

To spike interest and energy, the museum will hold a fundraiser on May 19. The event kicks off at 5 p.m. at the museum with drinks and hors d’ouevres, a tour of the new traveling bison exhibit, followed by a specially prepared bison dinner at Pom Italian where Skeeter He Does It and Mardell Plainfeather will speak. Buses of Yellowstone, historic tourist vehicles from the park’s past, will taxi participants from the museum to the restaurant.

Tickets are $100 and may be purchased at the museum during business hours or from a board member. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Bison Exhibit is an 1,800-square-foot traveling display that includes a reading nook with books for all ages, a hands-on tools display, games, and an entire written and visual history of bison. The exhibit, created by Laurel veterinarian Don Woerner and his wife Bobbie, is on display until Father’s Day weekend, June 16.

“I’m so thrilled to be hosting this exhibit,” said Sarah Russell, the museum’s executive director, in a statement. “This is one of the most comprehensive and best curated exhibits I’ve ever seen. And the best part is that you can touch everything not under glass so it’s a very hands-on display.”

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The museum is housed in a nearly 120-year-old building that used to be the old mining town’s Labor Temple, meaning operation and maintenance costs are high.

While Russell admits there has been an uptick in membership and small donations in the last 12 months, she worries about the ability of the museum to continue to serve as the county preservation office and museum to the community over the long term.

“This building is expensive to maintain,” she said. “The board and community have always wanted to see the second and third floors finished. But right now, we need to cover operational expenses.”

The Carbon County Historical Society and Museum is a nonprofit organization. On the fourth Wednesday of each month it holds an informative evening lecture. For additional information call 446-3667 or go online to carboncountyhistory.com.

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