Public Programs

The Montana Historical Society hosts regularly scheduled public programs on a wide variety of topics relating to the Treasure State’s history and culture. Most programs take place on Thursday evenings (excluding holidays and a summer break). The Friends of the Montana Historical Society sponsor public programs the third Wednesday of each month, September through May (excluding December), and an annual March Lecture Series in celebration of Women’s History Month. Every fall the Society holds its annual Montana History Conference. Exhibit openings, curator tours, and family programs also enliven the year.

May 2016

Thursday, May 5, 6:30–8:00 p.m. Presence of the Past Program Series—Witness to Spirit: My Life with Cowboys, Mozart & Indians. Join Bozeman author Robert Staffanson as he discusses and signs his new memoir. Staffanson has led an exemplary life. At 93 he is sharing his unique journey of starting out as a "real" cowboy before being moved by music to start the Billings Symphony. He then moved to Massachusetts to serve as conductor of the Springfield Symphony. Returning home, Staffanson went on to co-found the American Indian Institute and become a renowned advocate for Native Americans and indigenous people around the world.

Thursday, May 12, 6:30–8:00 p.m. Presence of the Past Program Series—Lewis and Clark among the Nez Perce: Strangers in the Land of the Nimiipuu. Nez Perce historians Allen V. Pinkham and Steven Ross Evans have examined the journals of Lewis and Clark with painstaking care to tease out new insights from what the explorers wrote about their Nez Perce hosts. Pinkham and Evans evaluate both what Lewis and Clark understood and what they misunderstood in the Nez Perce (Nimiipuu) lifeway and political structure. More particularly they have re-examined the journals for clues about how the Nez Perce reacted to the bearded strangers. They have also gathered together and put into print for the first time the strands of a surprisingly rich Nez Perce oral tradition. The authors will be available to sign copies of their book following the presentation.

Saturday, May 14, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Second Saturday at MHS. Sponsored by the Helena Community Credit Union, Second Saturday features free admission all day long and drawings for door prizes. Free admission is also offered at the Original Governor’s Mansion, 304 N. Ewing, where tours begin on the hour at noon, 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 p.m.
Special programming for Second Saturday includes: 13 p.m. MHS Library—Research Center staff invites you to an introduction of the society’s new microfilm readers! The new readers allow for image editing and technology that provides for reading, printing, and scanning pages from the MHS Library’s 16,000 microfilm reels of Montana newspapers. Imagine locating an early reference to an ancestor in an 1864 edition of the Virginia City’s Montana Post, or reading reports of your great-grandfather’s trial and sentencing for cattle rustling in Miles City’s Yellowstone Journal. Staff will be available to assist in familiarizing patrons with the new machines as well as conducting newspaper research.
At 1:00, MHS Auditorium—Natasha Hollenbach, Digital Services Specialist, will discuss how to conduct genealogy newspaper research, particularly with the various digitized Montana newspapers.
At 2:00, MHS Auditorium—Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian, will present on how to take advantage of the many free on-line genealogy resources.

Thursday, May 19, 6:30–8:00 p.m. Presence of the Past Program Series—Visions and Native Wisdom in the Writings of Frank Bird Linderman. Frank Bird Linderman was one of Montana's first literary figures and a true pioneer. Linderman scholar Celeste River will share stories by and about this accomplished raconteur who preserved in “printer's ink” true-life stories of his many friends who had peopled Montana Territory in the 1800s, including notable Native American leaders and Cowboy Artist Charlie Russell. Blending her own landscape photography with archival imagery obtained through a Humanities Montana research grant, River will weave a visual journey recalling a time now gone, but not forgotten—a history infused with the spirit of the land in the Big Sky.

Thursday, May 26, 5:30–8:00 p.m. Book Release Party! Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women’s Stories. Join the party for the Montana Historical Society Press’ newest publication. Enjoy living history with business woman Nancy Russell Cooper and photographer Evelyn Cameron, demonstrations of traditional crafts including beading and quilting, and refreshments. Don’t forget to have your books signed by the contributing authors.

The Montana Historical Society's Research Center offers a variety of Programs on an ongoing basis. Contact them at

To arrange speakers for your group or organization, or other questions regarding public programs, contact Kirby Lambert at (406) 444-4741 or

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