The Montana Historical Society’s Annual Report
July 2001 through June 2002
Traveling to the Past at the Montana Historical Society
For over a century, travelers have journeyed to Montana in search of wilderness adventures. But they have sought, just as often, to experience our historical treasures: the rock art of our first people; Lewis and Clark’s route; Bozeman Trail traces; gold rush ghost towns; labor songs from Butte’s industrial trenches; homesteaders’ reminiscences; Charlie Russell paintings; surviving small-town grain elevators; the clothing that kept our ancestors warm—buffalo robes to bulky coats. Montana’s history has been, and continues to be, a destination quite as intriguing as Yellowstone’s geysers and Glacier’s grizzlies.
At the Montana Historical Society, our historic collections allow us to create extraordinary exhibits and to offer unparalleled research opportunities. The technical assistance that we provide to historic property owners, communities, and local museums enables them to preserve and interpret our shared history across the state. Montana’s past is indeed an exotic locale. We take pride in having been especially dedicated and successful travel agents, guides, outfitters, and protectors of Montana’s historical destinations. We take heart from all who join us in trips to the past.
Guiding You to the Past
Programs and Services
- Offered new guided tours of Society galleries on spring Saturdays.
- Teamed up with our volunteers, the Friends of the Society, for a noontime March Lecture Series that featured Montana ghosts and ghost towns.
- Cosponsored workshops on the “Economics of Historic Preservation: A Community Leaders’ Guide, ” “Reinventing Historic Downtowns,” and county courthouse preservation.
- Partnered with other Helena arts organizations to host Gary Cooper’s daughter in a continued celebration of Cooper’s Montana roots and his influence on perceptions of Western history.
- Orchestrated the unveiling and dedication of the Mike and Maureen Mansfield statue on November 26, 2001.
- Revamped Library-Archives hours so that the Library Reference room could be open four hours every Saturday.
- Brought “History Here and Now” into focus at the 28th Annual Montana History Conference with topics such as notable twentieth-century Montana sporting events and the Treasure State during World War II.
- Expanded Society contributions to Helena community events such as summer “Alive @ Five” programs.
- Joined Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, Pictograph Cave State Park, and Chief Plenty Coups State Park in cultural resource and interpretive planning.
- Worked with Parks Canada, trail organizations, and several communities to create new visitor signage.
New on our website
- Revised Montana: A Student Guide to the Study of the State.
- Index to Montana The Magazine of Western History, 1951 to 2000.
- Society employment information.
- Cumulative Annual Reports.
- Full Lewis and Clark section, including a broad bibliography.
- Much expanded Museum Store catalog.
- Online membership options.
- Full text of Nez Perce Summer, 1877: The U.S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poo Crisis.
- Montana’s State Capitol: The People’s House, by Kirby Lambert, Patricia Burnham, and Susan R. Near.
- I Will Be Meat for My Salish: The Montana Writer’s Project and the Buffalo of the Flathead Indian Reservation, with Salish Kootenai College Press.
- Ten-Year Index, 1991-2000, Montana The Magazine of Western History.
- Reprint series, Western History Classics, through a partnership between Montana Historical Society Press and Riverbend Publishing: Up on the Rim by Dale Eunson, Tenting To-Night by Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Blackfeet Tales of Glacier National Park by James Willard Schultz.
- Capitol Capsules by Dave Walter, pamphlet.
- “Hope in Hard Times: New Deal Photographs of Montana, 1936–1942,” traveling exhibit.
- “A Capital Capitol,” traveling exhibit.
- “An Honest Try,” a sampling of Robert M. Scriver’s rodeo artwork, in a temporary Society exhibit.
- “Pay Dirt Pictured: The Mining Camp Art of Muriel Sibell Wolle,” traveling exhibit showcased at the Society.
- “The Most Difficult Journey: The Poindexter Collections of Modernist American Painting,” a Yellowstone Art Museum exhibit created with 33 works from the Society’s Poindexter Collection that will tour nationally with Exhibits USA.
Helping Montanans Create History Destinations
Assisting in Statewide Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Preparations
- Recruited and hosted the Montana Historical Society’s first Montana Indian Advisory Panel comprised of 30 tribal educators, elders, and cultural advocates.
- Transformed three Robert F. Morgan’s Lewis and Clark exhibit murals into posters and note cards, that are available in the Museum Store, along with a set of Charles M. Russell Lewis and Clark images.
- Purchased and mailed the Lewis and Clark Educator’s Resource Guide (developed by The Watercourse and Project WET with Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission funding) to all Montana school libraries.
- Prepared and distributed a brochure on Lewis and Clark National Historic Landmarks.
- Added an extensive Lewis and Clark component to our website.
- Reviewed Lewis and Clark interpretive sign text for many local groups.
- Provided funding for a geo-archaeological study of the Traveler’s Rest site in Lolo.
Montana Properties Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
- Tower Rock, Cascade County
- Swan River Community Hall, Flathead County
- Joe and Carrie Hilger Ranch, Lewis and Clark County
- Montana State Arsenal, Armory and Drill Hall (Helena), Lewis and Clark County
- Dr. Don L. Byam House (Nevada City), Madison County
- Finney House (Nevada City), Madison County
- Gildersleeve Mine, Lolo National Forest, Mineral County
- North Entrance Road Historic District, Yellowstone National Park, Park County
- 4K Ranch, Stillwater County
- Halfway House (Columbus), Stillwater County
- Torgrimson Place, Stillwater County
- First National Bank of Glasgow, Valley County
- Electric Building (Billings), Yellowstone County
- Westside School (Billings), Yellowstone County
Historic Building Grants Awarded
- Madison County Fairgrounds Sheep Barn Stabilization, Twin Bridges, $12,000
- Rialto Theater Marquee Restoration, Deer Lodge, $6,000
- Philipsburg Grade School Roof Replacement, Philipsburg, $14,000
- Old Cobblestone School/Community Center Window Replacement, Absarokee, $8,000
Securing Resources and Services for Future Travelers
- Launched the agency’s Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Plan. Trained staff and sought outside expertise.
- Moved the Bob Scriver collection and archival materials into the new Scriver Center, built by the Montana History Foundation. The Center provides greater security, climate control, lab and research space, and soon-to-be-opened-to-visitors storage.
- Established the K. Ross Toole Endowment, named after the Society’s vigorous 1950s director, to create more stable funding for the Magazine and Press.
- Captured Montana Korean War veteran (active duty and home front) and twentieth-century war bride memories on oral history audiotapes.
- Joined the City of Helena, Lewis and Clark County, the U.S. Forest Service, the Washington Corporation, and other Montana partners to analyze appropriate sites for a new Montana History Center.
- Implemented an entrance fee system at the Montana Historical Society and the Original Governor’s Mansion as a way to accomplish resource preservation and education that is not possible within existing budgets.
- Mapped out our information technology needs in a formal plan—as a way to better present our case for hardware, software, and especially technical assistance so that more of our services can be available online.
- Continued to revamp our Membership Program, including the addition of a new Business Members category.
Thanks to All Financial Donors And to Those of who Donated Art, Artifacts, and Archival Materials
- National Endowment for the Humanities, multi-agency project grant to explore map and photograph digitization.
- National Historical Publications and Records Commission, multi-agency project grant to place more Library-Archives records online in a more readable format.
- Rendezvous Artists Group, gift for art acquisition.
- Ivan and Carol Doig, gift to microfilm historic Department of Livestock brand books.
- E. L. Wiegand Foundation, grant to revamp and expand the Society’s educational teaching trunk collection.
- Continuation of an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant that bolstered the Museum Program’s transition to electronic catalog systems.
- Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, full support for two Montana History Conference sessions to showcase tribal and four-year college Montana students presenting their research.
- Claiborne/Ortenberg Foundation, full support for the Montana Heritage Project, an award-winning rural heritage education initiative.
- Whitney MacMillan, gift that supported historic preservation projects.
Major Collections Donated
- Doug and Bob Marks, Anaconda smelter and environs photographs.
- Montana State Library, State Library Federation photographs, 1950–1996.
- Bill Brown, Golden Canyon Days and Vigilante Parade photographs.
- Former Governor Marc Racicot, papers.
- Helen Esther Nash bequest, three oil on canvas landscapes by R. E. DeCamp.
- Nancy Tunnicliff in memory of Herbert M. White “Blackfoot Scout,” oil on board by O. C. Seltzer,ca. 1927.
- Myrna Loy Center, clothing and accessories worn by Myrna Loy.
- Purchased as a result of Art Acquisition Fund donations, 575 “Sonnysayings” Fanny Cory Cooney cartoons.
- Montana Nurses Association, 10 feet of records, 1963-1999.
- Montana Secretary of State, 28 feet of records, 1988-2000.
- Montana Legislature, 31 feet of records and 300 audiotapes, 2000-2001.
- Montana Carey Land Act Board, 12 feet of additional records, 1909-1965.
Getting To Know Your Guides
Society At A Glance
- Governed by a fifteen-member Board of Trustees appointed by the Governor.
- Organized into five programs: Library-Archives; Museum; Publications; Preservation; and Agency Management. Public Education and Outreach span all programs.
- Functions with fifty-two full-time and twelve part-time employees and an annual budget of $3.9 million.
- Publishes a quarterly western history journal, a newsletter, and three to six books each year.
- Lists two to three dozen Montana properties in the National Register of Historic Places and sparks five to ten million dollars in historic preservation rehabilitation work through tax credit incentives annually.
- Holds in trust for Montana: 100,000 books; 400,000 historic photographs; 16,000 maps; 2,000 oral history interviews; 13,000 cubic feet of archival material; 45,000 artifacts; 5,000 pieces of artwork; 36,000 inventory files for all known Montana archaeological, historic, and architectural sites; 25,000 cultural resource survey reports; and 500,000 artifacts and 248 buildings in Virginia and Nevada cities.
- Owner of the Original Governor’s Mansion in Helena, which it manages with assistance from a citizen restoration board.
- Responsible, as owners, for preservation of state-owned buildings and artifacts at Virginia and Nevada cities; the Moss Mansion in Billings; and the Daly Mansion in Hamilton.
- Qualifies under federal tax codes to receive tax-deductible charitable gifts and actively solicits private and public grants.
The Montana Heritage Commission, administratively attached to the Society to oversee Virgina and Nevada cities and similar at-risk sites, offered Nevada City as a training ground for the families participating in the PBS “Frontier House” series and acquired many of the reproductions and antiques used in the series. The Commission also produced a new visitor orientation video, “Layers of Time”; launched an on-site historic preservation training program; acquired one of Helena’s earliest building complexes, Reeders’ Alley; and remodeled Virginia City’s Bonanza Inn into housing for camps and training sessions. Stabilization of buildings in Virginia and Nevada cities proceeds systematically, as does inventory of the extraordinary artifact collection.
The Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission, administratively attached to the Society, realized significant success this year as it generated revenue for key Montana Lewis and Clark projects through the sale of Lewis and Clark automobile license tags and awarded $180,000 through its grants program. The Commission is also now a partner in an aggressive private-sector fundraising campaign earmarked for major educational and legacy projects related to the Bicentennial.
The Montana Heritage Project, funded by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, sponsored high school students and teachers in Bigfork, Chester, Corvallis, Dillon, Eureka, Harlowton, Lewistown, Libby, Ronan, Roundup, Simms, and White Sulphur Springs to ask critical questions about their region’s past, conduct primary source research, and provide communities with programs, oral history tapes, exhibits, and archives. In May, Bigfork students and teachers represented the project and Montana as they presented the products of project work to the Librarian of Congress.
TheMontana History Foundation, an independent 501 C.3 organization focused on supporting the Society and its affiliated organizations, launched their “History Runs Through It” campaign to make Montana history accessible to all; teamed up with Dillon-based Montaqua Spring Water Company to share space on their labels promoting Montana history and the Foundation; oversaw construction and funding for the new Scriver Center and the process of leasing it to the State of Montana for Society use; and kept improving member services for the Society and the Montana Heritage Commission.
A Bumpy Ride
A Letter from the Director
Since we are using travel analogies in this annual report, I’ll continue. It’s been a roller coaster of a year for the Montana Historical Society: deep and sudden drops; some wonderful highs; and the thrills of new territory. Let me outline:
- We lost two very special, very talented contributors to Montana history this year: Lewistown area historian Anna Zellick and our own Vivian Paladin. Anna brought discipline, scholarship, and great passion to her regional research writing. Viv Paladin, editor of Montana The Magazine of Western History for over a decade, taught us to take excellent public service, not ourselves, seriously. We miss these mentors and friends.
- The state’s dramatic revenue drop and the governor’s initial June 28 budget reductions resulted in a $110,000 cut to the Society’s budget and the loss of two full positions. As this goes to print, we are still coping with a further $70,000 reduction and the loss of additional positions.
- In May and early June, we moved the Bob Scriver collection of art and artifacts from storage in downtown Helena to the new Scriver Center—an open storage facility built specifically for the Society by the Montana History Foundation. The Center now also accommodates Library-Archives materials previously housed in commercially rented garages. The U.S. Forest Service joined our Foundation as a partner in this venture.
- In mid-February, we set sail into the uncharted territory of charging modest entrance fees. Based on visitor surveys and the experiences of sister historical societies, we are trying to help ourselves gain additional revenue for certain projects that have received no state support. While monies realized are modest, we are pleased with your understanding of this change.
- This year we took our first exciting steps toward a new facility that could address our desperate need for parking, meeting and classroom space, adequate storage, ample exhibit areas, and functional reference rooms. In partnership with Lewis and Clark County, the City of Helena, area businesses and corporations, we began evaluating potential building sites for a new Montana History Center in the Helena area.
The Society’s journey to a more stable and still more productive future remains challenging. Before all the budget cuts started, our staffing levels matched those of 1985. Now we have lost almost four positions. Statewide across-the-board equipment cuts resulted in the elimination of our Library’s entire book purchasing budget. Each donation noted above, though gratefully received, results in still more cramped storage quarters. In several programs, migrating efficiently from paper catalog records to electronic ones remains financially out of reach despite the enormous strides in public service and efficiency it would offer. In short, we need you and your help on our travels to the future.
Some of the best moments of this past year occurred right next to the darkest ones. As the Society faced threats to its budget, we were overwhelmed by your outpouring of concern and support. We count ourselves rich beyond measure in your love of Montana history and your willingness to help us preserve that past. We look towards a brighter future—with you as our travel partners.
Arnold Olsen, Ph.D.
To obtain a paper copy of this report, please write to: Montana Historical Society, 225 N. Roberts, P.O. Box 201201, Helena, MT 59620-1201. (406) 444-2694