About the Archives

The Archives Mission

The Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives was established in 1981 by ordinance to maintain the non-current records of the city-county of Butte-Silver Bow. Given the significant industrial, political, and social history of Butte in the American West, the government records and archival holdings are in great demand by scholars, authors, and genealogists. The mission of the Archives is to:

  • Be the official repository for all non-current government records of Butte-Silver Bow
  • Acquire, maintain, and preserve historical documents, photographs, and manuscripts pertaining to Butte history
  • Provide public access to the documents and manuscript collections at the Archives
  • Work with educators to enhance the classroom experience
  • Provide service to the preservation community of Butte-Silver Bow

The Archives also accepts collections, manuscripts, and photographs from individuals, groups, schools, and organizations. The collections run the gamut from individual memorabilia to major historical documents donated by individuals, fraternal and sororal organizations, schools, and businesses.

The Archives provides and encourages public access to its unique holdings. People come away from the Archives with a new-found appreciation of history and the significance of preserving the documents and manuscripts that tell the story of Butte and, through its significant impact, the world.


The Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives was established in 1981 by County ordinance to maintain the non-current records of the city-county of Butte-Silver Bow. It is a department of the local government and is overseen by a seven-member Board of Directors. The Archives currently employs two full-time and three part-time professional staff members who are assisted by nearly 50 dedicated volunteers. The Archives is also supported by the Friends of the Archives, a non-profit group formed to support the operation of the Archives through fundraising. The Friends group also hosts activities such as author and book signing events, ethnic and artistic exhibits.

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archives building

The Building

The Archives is housed in a fire hall constructed in 1900 that is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2007, the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, the Board of Directors, the Friends of the Archives, and the staff successfully presented a 7.5 million dollar bond issue to the public asking to construct an archival vault and rehabilitate the historic firehouse. The voters of Butte-Silver Bow voted overwhelmingly (75 to 25%) to fund the project. Completed on June 4, 2010, the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives research facility and state-of-the-art archival vault opened to the public on September 1, 2010. As someone said recently, the Archives “has to be one of Butte’s best public investments.” On the exterior, the architects ensured that the façade reflects the age of the original structure, and six quotations were chosen by the public to be etched in the granite on the outside of the building. The quotations epitomize the admiration people have for our community’s history and its people.

The Collections

The Archives actively collects manuscripts, records, and photographs pertaining to the history of Butte-Silver Bow. The Archives holds over 2,000 collections comprising over 22,000 lineal feet. The collections are comprehensive and interrelated and provide dynamic insights into the history of the second industrial revolution (the electrification of America) and the history of copper mining. Home of the world's largest copper deposit, Butte was once one of the most radically and ethnically diverse settlements in the West and was the wellspring of the western labor movement. The records and the manuscripts in the care of the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives provide essential information on a number of subjects in the American West, including the history of technology, environmental history, the history of women and minority groups, and labor history. The resources at the Archives are numerous and most everything is available to the public. They include records and volumes such as:

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  • Polk City Directories -- 1884 to 1990
  • Cemetery Index -- 1880 to 1980
  • Birth Certificates – 1871, 1881 to 1970
  • Death Certificates – 1889 to 1970
  • Naturalization Records – 1881 to 1970
  • High School and College Yearbooks – Mid 1900s to 1980
  • Various Church Records (sporadic from the late 1800s to 1960)
  • Great Register – 1885 to 1914
  • School Census Records – 1884 to 1970
  • Coroner’s Reports – 1894 to 1991

Click here to view a full inventory of our collections online. If you don’t find what you want on this website and through our PastPerfect database, be sure to contact us. Our staff will be happy to assist you.