It will be a banner year for the Butte Labor History Center when it opens on June 13, Miners Union Day, at 49 W. Park St.
“That day will be huge,” said Cheryl Ackerman, co-owner of the Miners Bank Building with husband, Ted Ackerman. “That will be a big celebration.”
Tours start that month, too.
A colorful montage of photos, founders’ facts and key labor leaders already adorn sections of the 4,000-square-foot space housed east of Butte Stuff, an adjoined souvenir shop owned by the Ackermans.
They and Dick Gibson conceived the project about a year ago, and then the Ackermans bought the building last October.
Eventually, organizers will display at least 50 unions at its new nonprofit center.
Fittingly, the center commemorates the internationally significant labor story in Butte, said Gibson, driving force behind the center.
“We don’t really intend to be a museum with artifacts,” said Gibson, local historian and tour guide. “We don’t want artifacts. That’s way too complicated. That’s way too much worry. If somebody has artifacts, we’d love to see them. But the originals need to go to the Butte-Silver Bow Archives. That’s who’s set up for that.”
National flags hang from the ceilings, and a life-size cut-out of union labor leader Frank Little sits on one wall. One corner is dedicated to Butte’s ethnic neighborhoods; another corner highlights the Miners Bank Building and its various storefront incarnations throughout the decades.
The center’s board of directors is soliciting sponsors for a few dozen more banners. (See info box at right.)
“Whether we have the whole banner for each union, we’ll have the bare bones of each union,” said Gibson.
Some of the unions include: miners, tinners, carpenters, beer bottlers, brewers, teachers and the Women’s Protective Union, one of the first women’s unions in the United States.
Once all the banners are sold to sponsors and displayed, Gibson expects the local tourist draw to increase. At least one-half of the Butte Labor History Center Facebook page group is comprised of out-of-towners, he said.
Eventually, the center will house touch-screen computers with audio voice recreations of various Butte and Montana historical figures, like Little or Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin.