The Montana Historical Society’s Annual Report
2000 – 2001
“Improving Access to Montana’s Treasures”
The Montana Historical Society is responsible for putting our state’s history into your hands, minds, and hearts—for giving you access to our state’s historic treasures.
If the Montana Historical Society were simply to warehouse photographs, oral history tapes, dresses, furniture, diaries, and letters from Montana’s past, we would have failed all our constituents who love the West’s past.
Fortunately, once we have preserved resources, we are also responsible for organizing, analyzing, digitizing, designing, and presenting information about Montana’s past so that it is accessible to you.
Juggling these missions is no small feat. Until we safely preserve resources, they will be lost for all time. Until we carefully catalog resources, no one can find them and use them. And until we create curriculum, texts, exhibits, magazine articles, workshops, web pages, indices, and more, the stories that can be drawn from primary source materials will forever be lost.
We are pleased to share with you how we made Montana’s history accessible to you between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2000. Despite obstacles of outdated, inadequate facilities and technology and of minimal staff, we believe we have been good stewards of Montana’s unique and priceless historical resources—and have been vigorous in our efforts to make them accessible to you.
Improving Access: Through the Magazine
Fifty years ago, Albert J. Partoll and K. Ross Toole launched Montana The Magazine of Western History as the Montana Historical Society’s flagship journal. Montana remains a miracle. Journalism is a cutthroat field. Better-known periodicals have achieved quick fame and then fallen prey to fickle times and tastes. Our small budget demands that we scrimp and save.
What accounts for our magazine’s successful survival to a golden anniversary and beyond? First, the world’s love affair with the American West flourishes.
Second, from its birth, Montana the Magazine of Western History embraced a wise, practical formula: the very best scholarship presented in lively, clear, and interesting writing, beautiful art, and creative designs. This magic recipe accounts for Montana’s appeal around the globe to university scholars, high school students, journalists, Hollywood writers, and you.
Improving Access: Through New Exhibits at the Montana Historical Society Museum in Helena
- “Life on the Upper Missouri: The Art of Karl Bodmer.” introduces visitors to the region’s landscapes and Montana’s original residents as Lewis and Clark saw them.
- “A Legacy in Bronze: The Sculpture of Robert M. Scriver” celebrated our acquisition of Bob Scriver’s magnificent collection.
- “It’s a Matter of Time: The Pocket Watch in American History” is our newest permanent exhibit, located on the third floor.
- “Celebrating Fifty Years of the Archie Bray Foundation” offered a small tribute to an important cultural heritage partner in Helena.
Improving Access: Through Montana Historical Society Press Books
- Nez Perce Summer, 1877: The U. S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poo Crisis (paperback reprint) This volume was chosen by both the History and the Military Book Clubs as featured selections. (This one can become a caption.)
- A Guide to Historic Hamilton (Montana Mainstreet Series, Volume 4)
- A Guide to Historic Kalispell(Montana Mainstreet Series, Volume 5)
- Wheel Boats on the Missouri: The Atkinson-O’Fallon Expedition of 1824-26
- Fifty Years after the Big Sky: New Perspectives on the Fiction and Films of A. B. Guthrie, Jr.
- Battle for Butte (reprint)
- The worldwide web offers another way for us to help the past come alive. The world can now stay current with Society news, exhibits, programs, research, and photograph or art reproduction options by stopping at our newly refurbished web page.
- Hired a data entry technician to input museum catalog card information into an electronically searchable software program, Past Perfect with funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
- Began cataloging the recently acquired Bob Scriver collection electronically.
- Joined a consortium of seventeen Montana libraries in a project titled the “Western Montana Shared Network Catalog” which will make our library holdings searchable through a shared online catalog.
Improving Access: Through our Transformed Museum Store
In this bright, open, newly remodeled store, look for your favorite history books and Russell prints and discover our new selection of prints, cards, Lewis and Clark reference materials, and Montana-made gifts, which highlight the Society’s bison symbol. Store revenues support improved access and care of our collections and records.
Improving Access – Through Historic Preservation Programs and Assistance
- The State Historic Preservation Office oversaw the listing of twenty-one new Montana properties in the National Register of Historic Places:
- Crow Creek Water Ditch, Broadwater County
- Fromberg Bridge, Carbon County
- Masonic Temple (Great Falls), Cascade County
- Morel Bridge, Deer Lodge County
- Anaconda Multiple Properties, Deer Lodge County
- Glover Cabin
- Brunswick House
- Sheehan Boardinghouse
- Lorraine Apartments
- Granite Apartments
- James V. Collins House
- Branscombe Auto Machine Shop
- Lundwall Building (Bozeman), Gallatin County
- Methodist Episcopal Church of Three Forks, Gallatin County
- Harrison Lake Patrol Cabin, Glacier National Park
- Lincoln Creek Snowshoe Cabin, Glacier National Park
- Slayton Mercantile (Lavina), Golden Valley County
- Wicks-Seiler Residence (Helena), Lewis and Clark County
- Lenox Flats (Missoula), Missoula County
- University Area Historic District (Missoula), Missoula County [over six hundred buildings]
- Charter Oak Mine and Mill, Powell County
- Wolf Mountains Battlefield, Rosebud County
A small increase in federal funding for historic preservation allowed the State Historic Preservation Office to grant, on a matching basis, $46,000 to the following bricks-and-mortar preservation projects: Elks Lodge, Livingston; Grabow Hotel, Livingston; Northern Rockies Heritage Center, Fort Missoula; Downtown Miles City Facade Improvement Project, Miles City; Copper King Mansion (W. A. Clark Mansion), Butte; Thompson-Hickman County Library and Museum, Virginia City.
The Office also awarded $30,720 in federal historic preservation funds for community historic building surveys in Great Falls and Missoula.
Improving Access for Montana Students and Teachers: Through Programs, Tours, Camps, Footlockers, and Slides
- The Education program added “The Diary of a Victorian Girl,” to our repertoire of seven other guided tours developed for students.
- To enhance a family’s ability to enjoy and learn from our exhibits, we produced a brochure, “Visiting the Museum with Children.”
- We developed and placed online four Curriculum Guides for high school history teachers and their students, all based on theme issues of Montana The Magazine of Western History.
- The Montana Public Broadcasting Station filmed the Society’s third annual History Camp for middle school students held in Virginia City. Montana PBS aired the program in spring 2002.
- We completed Charlie Russell Art and Symbols of Montana, two new footlockers for statewide school use.
Improving Access: Through Programs, Conferences, and Technical Assistance
- Every day of the Fifty-seventh Montana Assembly, senators and representatives learned about “that day in legislative history,” courtesy of essays provided by the Montana Historical Society. That research is now captured in the booklet Capitol Capsules.
- The Archives staff created a “Women in the 1972 Constitutional Convention” display for a combined legislative and Governor’s Office celebration of Women’s History Month, March 2001.
- Fifty consultants and state and federal agency representatives attended the Preservation Office’s August 2000 workshop on how to follow federal and state preservation legislation efficiently.
- We joined West Yellowstone museum and preservation organizations to host the Society’s Twenty-seventh Annual Montana History Conference featuring “The Lure of the Parks.”
- The year was alive with monthly lectures, author talks, workshops, summer “Under the Tent” programs for youngsters, the Western Rendezvous of Art, and much more. As the year began, Montana Historical Society Press author Susan Badger Doyle completed a Montana speaking tour about her compilation of Bozeman Trail memoirs, Journeys to the Land of Gold: Emigrant Diaries from the Bozeman Trail, 1863-66. As the year ended, Press author Jerome A. Greene began a Pacific Northwest speaking tour on his book Nez Perce Summer 1877, which included ten Montana stops.
- This year’s Montana Historic Preservation poster titled “A Gift to Montana”—an annual preservation educational tool—featured the restored Capitol barrel vault.
Improving Access: Through Partnerships
- We joined the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Helena, participated in Helena’s summer events, and became a partner in community planning.
- Our Photograph Archives staff completed cataloging the Warren McGee collection of Northern Pacific Railway photographs with funding for contracted assistance from the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association.
- The US Bank in Helena gave the Society access to its display window in downtown Helena for Society presentations on Scriver, new Museum Store products, and more.
- Society Museum employees worked with the Department of Administration throughout the Capitol renovation process to safeguard Capitol art and completed their special stewardship work with the safe return of Amedee Joullin’s painting, Driving the Golden Spike, to the head of the Grand Staircase.
Others Who Helped Us Make History Accessible: Grants and Awards
- Claiborne/Ortenberg Foundation funded the Montana Heritage Project, providing heritage education in rural Montana
- Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation provided scholarships for college students to give papers at the annual Montana History Conference
- Montana Cultural and Aesthetic Trust provided one grant to the Society for a Korean War oral history project and one for a book and exhibit on the Farm Security Administration photographs of Montana
- Northwest Rendezvous Group of Artists/City of Helena Civic Center Board shared Western Rendezvous of Art proceeds for art acquisition.
- Institute of Museum and Library Services provided a two-year grant to the Museum Program for disaster and emergency planning, catalog data entry, and live and web outreach.
- Bureau of Land Management is sharing the costs for the development and of a State Antiquities Database Development
Significant Acquisitions We Will Want to Make Accessible to You
- Roy Wells Family: South Central Montana sheep shearing and railroad photographs
- Sam Treloar: Collection of music, musical instruments, and memorabilia from Butte
- Congressman Rick Hill: Congressional Papers
- Governor Thomas Judge: Governor’s papers
- Olive Johnston Henry family: 1950s and 1960s Helena photographs
- Barbara Richardson: Variety of historical artifacts including clothes, dolls, and doll clothes as well as photos and archival material
- Pauline Slade Wadsworth and Caroline Slade Hicks: Broadwater Hotel items
- Fifty-seventh Legislature: Records including approximately thirty-three feet of paper materials and over three thousand audiotapes.
I am again pleased to put the 2000-2001 Montana Historical Society’s Annual Report into your mailbox and your hands.
I grew up hearing the adage “Help comes to those who help themselves.” This year we tried hard to live that motto.
Calendar year 2001 began with the Fifty-seventh Montana legislative session. We prepared statistics, graphics, examples, and illustrations to reveal the extent of the Society’s need for staff, space, and equipment. While state budgets did not permit funding all our requests, the Society appreciated the legislators’ thoughtful consideration of our needs. We were especially glad for funding that helps us respond to Montana communities and their growing requests for aid as they prepare for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.
I invested many hours in nurturing our Montana History Foundation—the Society’s nonprofit fundraising partner. This year, our fifteen-year-old, rejuvenated Foundation hired a development director and a membership coordinator, launched a newsletter titled Legacy, and teamed up with the Helena Forest Foundation to build a warehouse that the Society will lease from the Foundation for the Bob Scriver collection. The Foundation has also launched a major campaign entitled “History Runs through It” that is designed to help us with our educational outreach work.
As this year ended, our Montana Historical Society Board of Trustees asked us to analyze the fees we charge for services throughout the agency. The study compared our fees to those of sister agencies and launched two separate, professional surveys of user needs, interests, and willingness to pay.
Still, the challenges that we face remain enormous:
- Our fifty-year-old building remains inadequate in most every way from storage to public program space.
- The backlog of catalog and index information needing to be made available electronically remains overwhelming.
- Our web page is being creatively and bravely maintained by a battery of historians—not information technology specialists.
- The services you request and several unfunded mandates are still being accomplished by the same number of staff that we had in 1985.
- Our ability to travel to local communities remains very limited by minimal operating funds.
Thank you for another year of enthusiastic support as we work hard to put Montana and the West’s history into your hands. We look forward to your continued support and assistance as we seek to improve our stewardship of and access to Montana history.
Arnold Olsen, Ph.D.
- 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 $3.7 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; and 5,000 pieces of artwork; 35,000 inventory files for all known Montana archaeological, historic, and architectural sites and 23,000 cultural resource survey reports; 500,000 artifacts and 248 buildings in Virginia and Nevada cities.
- Owns the Original Governor’s Mansion in Helena and manages it 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.
Programs Attached to the Society
Montana’s Lewis and Clark Commission, an organization attached to the Society, completed its Strategic and Fundraising Plans, secured legislative approval for Lewis and Clark license plates, and, in cooperation with Society staff, provided communities with guidance on how to unify and improve Lewis and Clark signage around Montana.
The Montana Heritage Commission, an organization attached to the Society to oversee Virginia and Nevada cities and similar at-risk sites, secured additional federal funding for historic building preservation, hired a volunteer coordinator, and hosted nineteenth-century life-style training for families involved in Frontier House, a PBS historical reality series.
The Montana Heritage Project, funded by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation enabled high school students and teachers in Bigfork, Browning, Chester, Corvallis, Dillon, Eureka, Harlowton, Lewistown, Libby, Ronan, Roundup, Simms, and Townsend to ask critical question of their region’s past, conduct primary source research, and provide their communities with programs, oral history tapes, exhibits, and archives.
“Even though Montana continues to change, we remain close in time and spirit to the loggers, ranch wives, cowboys and miners who have made our state what it is today.
As you collect and preserve these stories, please keep in mind the aspects of Montana that are so worthy of preservation - not just in boxes at the Historical Society - but truly in how we live our lives.”
Judy Martz speaking to Montana Heritage Projects student and teachers, April 4, 2001
"Accounting for our Stewardship of Montana’s Past”
The Montana Historical Society is the guardian of Montana’s memory.
The Montana Historical Society was created in 1865 by the Territorial Legislature making it among the oldest such institutions west of the Mississippi. We are charged by state statute to preserve and protect the vast record of Montana. That record includes art, artifacts, archives, photographs, books, diaries, government and private records, oral recordings, books, traditional crafts, archaeological places, historic sites, and historic buildings.
The record of Montana brings our history to life. It helps Montanans and visitors enjoy and learn from the experiences, skills, and dreams of those who have come before. The Montana Historical Society makes the record available through our world-class exhibits, the annual Montana History Conference, reference services, outreach material and educational programming, school resources, books, and the award-winning Montana the Magazine of Western History.
Profile of the Society:
- Governed by a 15-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 49 full-time and 11 part-time employees and an annual budget of $3.4 million.
- 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; and 5,000 pieces of artwork (4,000 new Scriver objects acquired this year alone); 35,000 inventory files for all known Montana archeological, historic, and architectural sites and 23,000 cultural resource survey reports; 500,000 artifacts and 248 buildings in Virginia and Nevada Cities.
- Responsible, as owners, for preservation of state-owned buildings and artifacts at Virginia and Nevada cities; the Moss Mansion in Billings; Daly Mansion in Hamilton, and the Original Governor’s Mansion in Helena.
- Administratively houses the Lewis and Clark Commission, the Montana Heritage Commission, and the Montana Heritage Project.
- Qualifies under federal tax codes to receive tax-deductible charitable gifts and actively solicits private and public grants.
New Assets Acquired and Resources Shared:
Major Collections Donated
- Mrs.Lorraine Scriver: Robert M. Scriver art, artifacts, archival materials.
- Karin Utzinger: Asger Mikkelsen photographs, Lewistown area, 1942-1970.
- 47 microfilm reels of the Great Falls Leader.
- Milk Control Board records, 1938-1994.
- Warren McGee: his Northern Pacific Railway photographs.
- Antonioli Family: Granite-BiMetallic Consolidated Mining Company records, 1891-1920.
- 56th Legislature (2,658 tapes and 30 feet of records).
- Mrs. Franz Stenzel: Dr. and Mrs. Franz Stenzel art and artifacts.
Temporary Museum Exhibits:
- Life on the Upper Missouri: The Art of Karl Bodmer.
- A Capital Capitol: History and Restoration of Montana’s Capitol
- Native American Ledger Art
- Through the Artists’ Eye: The Paintings and Photographs of Ralph DeCamp
Long-Term Museum Exhibits
- Rededicated Big Medicine Exhibit. A new setting, Native American interpretation, and a backdrop by artist Bob Morgan now showcase this sacred white buffalo.
- Symbols of Montana. An interactive exhibit that explains why official state symbols were chosen.
Educational Materials Circulated Statewide:
- Pay Dirt Pictured: The Mining Camp Art of Muriel Sibell Wolle, traveling exhibit.
- Discover the Corps of Discovery: The Lewis and Clark Expedition in Montana, hands-on school outreach kit.
- Archaeology Tool Kit, hands-on school outreach kit.
- Ancient Teachings Resource Catalog and Ancient Teachings Curriculum Supplement.
- Four sets of high school curriculum to augment special Society magazine issues, school resource.
Montana Historical Society Press Books published
- Charlie Russell Roundup: Essays on America’s Favorite Cowboy Artist.
- Montana’s Historical Highway Markers, revised edition.
- Guide to Historic Lewistown (Montana Mainstreet Series, Volume 3).
- Coyote Stories of the Montana Salish Indians.
- Yellowstone: The Creation and Selling of an American Landscape, 1870-1903.
- Owl’s Eyes and Seeking a Spirit: Kootenai Indian Tales.
- Smoke Wars: Anaconda Copper, Montana Air Pollution and the Courts, 1880-1920.
- Journeys to the Land of Gold: Emigrant Diaries from the Bozeman Trail, 1863-1866. Two volumes.
- Nez Perce Summer, 1977: The U. S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poo Crisis.
- Mary Quequesah’s Love Story: A Pend-d’Oreille Indian Tale.
- Voyages of Discovery; Essays on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Montana National Register of Historic Places Nominations and Interpretive Signs:
- 17 properties were approved by the State Historic Preservation Review Board for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, ranging from the First Methodist Church in Three Forks, the Slayton Mercantile in Lavina, and the Community Hall in Lodge Pole, to the Wolf Mountain Battlefield in Wolf Point, the Belton Chalet in West Glacier, and the 617-building University Area Historic District in Missoula.
- The Society also researched and provided 65 new interpretive signs for Register-listed properties in Charlo, Bozeman, Townsend, Deer Lodge, Absarokee, Kalispell, West Yellowstone, Turner, Great Falls, Lewistown, Missoula, Anaconda, Helena, Butte, Alberton, Corvallis, Loma, Hamilton, Philipsburg, Nevada City, Geraldine, Havre, Miles City, Big Sky, Red Lodge, and Virginia City.
- The Education Program conducted the first two annual Society History Camps in Virginia and Nevada Cities. Middle school students and their teachers enjoyed hands-on investigative learning that included restoring buildings and re-creating historic courts trials from regional cases.
- The Library joined the Online Computer Library Catalog, an international, searchable database of books, maps, magazines, and archival sources.
- The Society compensated for the Capitol’s closure during renovation by creating a special exhibit on Capitol history and offering specialized tours. We also watched over the Capitol’s priceless art through during rehabilitation.
- More than 300 historians and history enthusiasts from Montana and the nation attended the July 1999 Bozeman Trail Heritage Conference-–cosponsored by the Society and held in Bozeman.
- The Society’s Montana the Magazine of Western History garnered two more prestigious national awards: the Arrell M. Gibson Award from the Western History Association and the Western Writers of American Spur Award.
- We improved our cramped space with new quilt and Native American artifact storage and installed space-saving archival shelving.
Partnerships and Investments:
- The Society joined the Helena Civic Center Board and QWEST to bring the Western Rendezvous of Art back to Helena. The Society’s portion of the proceeds benefit the Museum’s art acquisition fund.
- Havre joined Missoula, Bozeman, Virginia City, Lewistown, Carbon County, Miles City, Helena/Lewis and Clark County, Great Falls, Anaconda, Billings, Butte-Silver Bow, Hardin/Big Horn County as a new “certified local government”—Montana communities with preservation ordinances and officers who receive special assistance from the Society’s Preservation Program.
- In conjunction with the State Historical Records Advisory Board, the Society served as a conduit for a grant-supported traveling archivist program that is helping Wolf Point, Libby, Eureka, Treasure County, Billings, Great Falls, Butte, and Meagher County to improve care and use of local records.
- The Historic Preservation Office is working with the Bureau of Reclamation and the Fort Peck Community College Native American Studies Department to research Fort Peck Reservation history.
- The Preservation Office helped real estate developers launch nine new commercial, historic preservation projects using Federal Preservation Tax Credits. The completed rehabilitation work will pump eight million dollars into the Montana economy for projects ranging from the Grand Silver Building in Butte and the Harrison Homestead in Big Timber to the Croatian Stone Masons Dormitory in Lewistown.
- The Society assisted the Montana Heritage Commission/Virginia and Nevada Cities with a host of projects, including outfitting the McFarland Curatorial Center for daily work, hiring a curator of collections, preparing exhibits and text for the Commission’s Visitor Center/Depot, and overseeing all required state payroll, invoicing, and contracting.
- For Montana Heritage Project students and teachers (Bigfork, Chester, Corvallis, Fort Benton, Libby, Roundup, St. Ignatius, Simms, Townsend, and Harlowton), the Society provided oral history workshops, public programs, meeting arrangements, photographic assistance, and library time.
- To jumpstart the Lewis and Clark Commission, we arranged meetings, prepared minutes, organized press and public relations material, created an extensive bibliography, provided detailed ideas for the Commission’s Education and Product Licensing Committees, helped develop their new grant program, and processed all required state payroll, invoicing, and contracting.
- For the locally organized nonprofit Moss and Daly Mansion boards, the Society provided architectural, curatorial, and administrative assistance, attended Board meetings, and helped ensure the preservation of these Montana treasures.
Thanks to our all our donors including these who made major financial contributions:
- Northern Pacific Railway Association, to catalog the Warren McGee railroad collection.
- The Donnelley Family Foundation, for state antiquities base management.
- Liz Claiborne/Art Ortenberg Foundation, Heritage Project funding.
- Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, scholarship funding for college students who give papers at the annual Montana History Conference.
- Audrey Hilton Trust, funding for a Society Volunteer Coordinator and for rehabilitation of the F. J. Haynes exhibit space.
- Bill Kitterman Estate for care of historic photograph, artifact, and archival donations from Churchill farms.
Incomparably Valuable Acquisition/A Daunting Responsibiltiy:
The Robert M. Scriver Collection
On March 29, 2000, Robert M. Scriver’s widow, Lorraine, donated to us the complete collection of her husband’s artistic and historic holdings. Browning-born Scriver was one of twentieth century Montana’s most skilled taxidermists and historical sculptors. He portrayed Montana scenes. He drew inspiration from his lifelong love of Native American traditions and other rambunctious Western customs such as rodeoing. His collection, which occupied 20,000 square feet of space in Browning and was appraised at more than $15 million, includes dioramas, carvings, original paintings, archival holdings, bronze sculptures, historic photographs, guns, wagons, saddles, and other Western memorabilia. Lorraine’s donation of her husband’s collection to the Society saved this multi-million dollar Montana treasure from out-of-state auction and exhibition. True to the Scriver’s interests in both Canada and the United States, the Society worked with Mrs. Scriver to forge an agreement among a three-party consortium of the Society, the Provincial Museum of Alberta, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Together we will research and exhibit the collection in all its dimensions.
Unanticipated Treasures: We never know what we’ll find in an achival box:
Letter from Gary Cooper to Helena attorney Wellington D. Rankin found while cataloging Rankin’s papers: “I shall never forget the boxing lessons you used to give me in your office . . . I also hold you partially responsible for my good fortune in Hollywood because you were the first to put the bee in my head about becoming an actor.”
“As I set a new corner post, I pull out the one that was probably put in place by my great grandpa. He had to dig this huge hole in the hard prairie, and I picture him stretching the wire with a fencing jack, wrapping it tight around the corner. The farther we move down the stretch of old, worn-out fence, the more real the memories and thoughts of my great grandpa seem. From Chester High School student Zeb Engstrom’s Heritage Project Essay of Place
In 1999, 73% of the total school-age population in Montana visited at least one museum or historic site during the year. Museums Association of Montana Study.
Counting direct and indirect, local and out-of-state expenditures, Montana’s museums infuse at least $42.1 million into Montana’s economy every year. 1999 Museums Association of Montana Study
“By listening and thinking about people who lived before you were born, you keep alive the hope that the world can get better with each generation, that we can learn both from our successes and our failures and that as long as we are learning we are on the right track. . . .”Governor Marc Racicot, speaking to the March 2000 Montana Heritage Project Student Conference
I am proud to present this report to you. It showcases, I believe, the Montana Historical Society’s exemplary stewardship of Montana’s cultural heritage. We have again provided Montana with services far beyond anticipation for a small agency with a very modest budget. Many of you, we know, reveled in our exhibits, caught a workshop or a lecture, waited eagerly for your magazine, or entrusted your family heirlooms to us.
Still, during the past biennium, we stretched our scarce resources to the breaking point. Although a familiar refrain among state agencies, it is fearfully and increasingly true for the Society. Projects and functions critical to our mandated obligations are genuinely at risk. Please consider:
- Space. We are beyond having adequate room for archives and museums collections, artifact conservation, educational functions, meeting space, and parking—so much so that we now curtail facets of these functions. We need to double our current space.
- Staffing. New assignments resulting from unfunded state mandates and public demands have increased Society work enormously, yet the Society staff is at the same level it was in 1985—more than 15 years ago.
- Risky funding. Core Society programs are heavily and in some cases wholly reliant on uncertain funding sources. Moreover, the Society looks to endowment and grant funding to sustain some core functions that normally would be state supported.
- Lewis and Clark. The Society currently approaches the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial with no funding for long term exhibit planning, education programming, or publications despite increasing public demands.
- Scriver Collection. The Society has inadequate funding available for timely conservation and interpretation of Mrs. Robert M. Scriver’s extraordinarily important gift of her husband’s art collection.
As we all begin this new Montana millennium, I want you to know how grateful we are for all the support and encouragement you provide us daily. I invite your continued interest in the Society’s work, your participation in our programs, and your help so that we may continue preserving and sharing Montana’s record.We must work together—often, closely, creatively, if we are to realize our shared dream of preserving Montana’s memory—and all the heritage resources that sustain it.
Arnie Olsen, Director
For the printed version of this report, please contact Director’s Office, Montana Historical Society, PO Box 201201, Helena, MT 59620-1201 or call 1-800-243-9900.