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.

Thursday, September 8, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Presence of the Past Program Series—The Democracy of the Wild.  When North America was being colonized the fish and wildlife resource was basically held as a personal asset by those granted land in the “New World.”  When American colonists rebelled, fish and wildlife received no mention in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Sixty-six years later the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, by virtue of the Declaration of Independence, the people in America became the “sovereign,” and rights and privileges held by kings passed to the people. In short, the king’s deer became the people’s game.  Finding a conservation ethic took a bit of time, but events occurring on the Montana landscape made a significant contribution—as they do today. Author, outdoorsman, and conservation leader Jim Posewitz will share his insight into this important American story. While you’re here, don’t miss the Society’s newest temporary exhibit, Big Game, Big Stories: Montana’s Hunting Heritage.

Friday, September 9, and Saturday, September 10, 9:00 a.m.– 5:00 p.m. The MHS Museum Store will have its annual Tent Sale on the front lawn of MHS on Friday and Second Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day with tremendous bargains on books, Charlie Russell and other art prints, Stan Lynde autographed books and book covers. and more.

Saturday, September 10, 9:00 a.m.– 5:00 p.m. Second Saturday at MHS. Sponsored by the Helena Community Credit Union, “Second Saturday” features drawings for door prizes and free admission all day long to Montana’s Museum and the Original Governor’s Mansion, 304 N Ewing. Tours at the Original Governor’s Mansion begin on the hour at noon, 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 p.m. At 1:00 p.m. in the MHS auditorium, Loretta Lynde will offer a special program on Stan Lynde: The Early Years Growing Up on the Crow Reservation.  Loretta, who is former publisher of the Independent Record, will share family photos and stories about the childhood that she and her famous cartoonist/author brother shared on the family’ ranch with was located on Montana’s Crow Reservation

Thursday, September 15, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Presence of the Past Program Series—Major Charles Rawn. Using first-person interpretive techniques, Dr. Bob Brown, former director of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, will bring Major Charles Rawn to life. In the summer of 1877, Major Rawn founded Fort Missoula, was called upon to stop the Nez Perce at what became known as Fort Fizzle, and participated in the Battle of the Big Hole. Brown’s presentation will include reminiscences of the major’s entire career—including his involvement in the Civil War—but will focus on the frontier infantry in Montana and the Nez Perce War. Following the talk, Brown will be available to sign copies of his new book on Rawn.

Wednesday, September 21, 10:45 a.m. –noon. Friends of the Montana Historical Society Public Program—Major John Owen: From Walla Walla to Fort Benton and Beyond. MHS Museum technician Vic Reiman will recount the experiences of “Major” John Owen, who settled in the Bitterroot Valley in 1850 and, for the next twenty years, kept journals detailing his daily life. Owen made numerous trading trips throughout the region, and today his accounts of those travels provide an unparalleled source of information about western Montana’s residents and events during the 1850s.  

Thursday, September 22, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Presence of the Past Program Series—Bleed, Blister and Purge: The Medicine of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Lewis and Clark expedition lasted nearly 2½ years, covered over 8,000 miles, and involved the efforts of more than 50 people, yet only one member of the Expedition died along the way. This extraordinary achievement in 19th century medicine was accomplished with no actual doctor in the Corps of Discovery. Was this great result a matter of luck, or is there more to early medicine than we believe? Join Jeff LaRock, Supervisory Interpreter at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls,  to hear the (sometimes) gory details of medicine on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Thursday–Saturday, September 22–24, Hamilton and Stevensville. Roots and Branches: 175 Years of Montana History—the 43rd annual Montana History Conference. The conference will be headquartered at the Bitterroot Inn and Conference Centerin Hamilton. On Saturday the 24th we will travel to Stevensville to participate in that community’s  Founders Day Celebration  which commemorates the 175th anniversary of the founding of St. Mary’s Mission. To view the full program visit: History conference brochure.

Thursday, September 29, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Presence of the Past Program Series—The 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake

At 11:37 p.m. on August 17, 1959, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake rocked Montana’s Yellowstone country. In an instant, an entire mountainside fractured and thundered down onto the sites of unsuspecting campers. The mammoth avalanche generated hurricane-force winds ahead of it that ripped clothing from backs and heaved tidal waves in both directions of the Madison River Canyon. More than two hundred vacationers trapped in the canyon feared the dam upstream would burst. As debris and flooding overwhelmed the river, injured victims frantically searched the darkness for friends and family. Acclaimed historian Larry Morris tells the gripping minute-by-minute saga of the survivors who endured the interminable night, the first responders who risked their lives and the families who waited days and weeks for word of their missing loved ones. Following the talk, Morris will be available to sign copies of his new book.

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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