In 1984, with a major grant from the Montana Coal Tax Fund and generous donations from private individuals, the Yellowstone Art Museum began to build a permanent collection of significant contemporary art of the region. The "Montana Collection" represents the best of of Western art relevant to today's West, and constitutes a living artistic heritage.
By 1991 there were 609 objects in the collection. Today there are over 3,000, exceeding all expectations for growth and popularity. Major gifts from the estates of three prominent artists have tripled the size of the collection since 1992.
Additionally, the acquisition of the Virginia Snook Collection, the largest public collection of the drawings, paintings, books, and memorabilia of cowboy illustrator Will James (1892-1942), has given the Art Museum's collection another popular dimension.
The Snook collection also includes paintings and drawings by other historic regional artists, including Joseph Henry Sharp, Charles M. Russell, and others.