Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

Museum and research center closed for renovations. For more info, call (406) 444-2694.

20/20 Vision: Looking Clearly at the Past

2020 Montana History Conference brochure cover, featuring an image of Dave Piper and Gus McLeod surveying the 'Richest Hill on Earth,' ca.  1943, Lot 019 B 565

The 47th Annual—and first virtual—Montana History Conference

At a time when we are feeling uncertain about the present, it is important to remember that the past has much to teach us. Since the pandemic has precluded travel and large-scale gatherings, the Montana Historical Society’s 47th state history conference will be held online, over a two-month period. Even though we will miss seeing you in person, we hope that you will join us for these exciting programs which will be offered live to give you the chance to interact with the presenters (unless otherwise noted, programs will also be posted on our YouTube channel for watching at a later date).

  • All sessions are free. 

  • No registration is required (except for the Montana History Pub Triva Contest which does require pre-registration).

  • Click on the session titles below for Zoom links.

  • OPI renewal units are available for most sessions (details below).  

Conference Sessions

Thursday, September 3, 6:30 p.m.

Gilbert Brewery beer bottle label, Private Collection

Click on session title for here Zoom link: Good Beer Here: An Interactive Exhibit Tour—Anneliese Warhank and Steve Lozar, MHS

Beer-history experts Anneliese Warhank and Steve Lozar will serve up a thirst-quenching tour of MHS’s newest temporary exhibit, Good Beer Here. Learn about Montana’s brewing history from the old-world beer of the 1850s, through Prohibition, to the emergence of contemporary, craft brewers. Discover where the Treasure State’s first brewers set up shop and the methods they used to brew and transport beer. You’ll get a chance to view equipment from one of the state’s earliest breweries, Gilbert Brewing, which was established in Virginia City in 1863; objects from Helena’s Kessler Brewery, one of the longest running breweries in the state; and vintage labels and contemporary paraphernalia from around the state.

Thursday, September 3, 8:00 p.m.

Montana History Pub Trivia Contest—MHS Staff

Test your Montana history knowledge, meet other history nerds, and win fabulous prizes during an evening of online pub trivia. HINT: Start brushing up now on beer history, general Montana history, women’s history, and labor history. Since you’ll be playing online from home— it’s strictly BYOB! Registration closes at Noon on Sept. 3. Limited to first 50 registrants.

Registration is required to attend the Trivia Contest
  • Register here Registration is closed
  • Registration closes at 12:00 pm on the day of the contest
  • After registering, you will receive an email with an invitation to the contest
  • If you're unfamiliar with Zoom, please consider joining the meeting sometime after 6:30 pm to work out any unexpected issues


Thursday, September 10, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Click on session title for here Zoom link: Making your Mark: 145 years of Recording Montana Brands and Marks—Laura Tretter and Zoe Ann Stoltz, MHS

2021 will mark the 100th anniversary of Montana’s first livestock brand re-record. Join MHS research center staff to learn how to do brand research using the “Livestock Brands” collection on the Montana History Portal. Discover the wealth of information contained in this collection that covers the period 1873–2020. Learn tips and tricks to get the most out of your search. Two OPI Renewal Units are available by completing this form by Monday, September 14, 11:59 p.m. Late submissions will not be accepted.

Thursday, September 10, 6:30 p.m.

Click on the session title for the Zoom link: Picturing Political Power: Images in the Women’s Suffrage Movement—Dr. Allison K. Lange, Wentworth Institute of Technology

For as long as women have battled for equitable political representation in America, those battles have been defined by images—whether illustrations, engravings, photographs, or colorful chromolithograph posters. Some of these pictures have been flattering, many have been condescending, and others downright incendiary. Dr. Allison K. Lange will explore the ways in which these images have drawn upon prevailing cultural ideas of women’s perceived roles and abilities and often have been circulated with pointedly political objectives. One OPI Renewal Unit is available by completing this form by Monday, September 14, 11:59 p.m. Late submissions will not be accepted.

Saturday, September 12, 1:30 p.m.

Click on the session title for the Zoom link: A Wild Land Ethic, The History of Wilderness in Montana—Wayne Chamberlin and Dale Burk

Conservationists Wayne Chamberlin of Helena and Dale Burk of Stevensville will discuss their new book, A Wild Land Ethic, The History of Wilderness in Montana. This book—which features the work of forty different authors and thirty-two photographers—focuses on the history of the wilderness preservation movement in Montana, and it covers in scope wild land resources across the state from the proposed Scotchman Peaks area in northwestern Montana to the Pryor Mountains in the southeastern part of the state. One OPI Renewal Unit is available by completing this form by Monday, September 14, 11:59 p.m. Late submissions will not be accepted.

Thursday, September 17, 6:30 p.m.

Click on the session title for the Zoom link: Shakespeare in Montana—Dr. Gretchen Minton, Montana State University

When the French Diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville toured America in the 1831, he was surprised to find that “there is hardly a pioneer’s hut which does not contain a few old volumes of Shakespeare.” During the first decades in which white people explored and settled the Northern Rockies, Shakespeare was as popular as he was in other parts of America. Join Dr. Gretchen Minton as she examines how the Bard’s words and works were carried throughout Montana Territory, where they were co-opted to speak for the readers’ morality and aspirations. One OPI Renewal Unit is available by completing this form by Monday, September 21, 11:59 p.m. Late submissions will not be accepted. 

Thursday, September 24, 6:30 p.m.

Click on the session title for the Zoom link: The Great Smallpox Pandemic of 1779-1784—Dr. Colin Calloway, Dartmouth University

Pandemics are nothing new in North America. In this talk, Dr. Colin Calloway will trace the smallpox epidemic that spread across the West, from Mexico to Canada, at the time of the American Revolution and consider its impact on the history of both Native America and the burgeoning United States. One OPI Renewal Unit is available by completing this form by Monday, September 28, 11:59 p.m.  Late submissions will not be accepted.

Field Trips

Autographed Stetson, Illustrated by O. C. Seltzer, 1932, MHS X1966.29.01, Gift of John L. Fogarty

Saturday, September 26, 10:30 a.m.

Click on the session title for the Zoom link: “Appropriate, Curious, and Rare”: Treasures from the Collection—MHS staff

In 1876, the eleven-year-old Historical Society of Montana published its collection policy, stating: “As this is the only cabinet of a permanent public society preserved for the whole Territory, it is hoped that whatever is appropriate, curious, and rare will be preserved therein.” Join MHS staff as we bring you behind the scenes to learn more about some of our favorite gems that fulfill this mission. Learn the stories behind a few of the most intriguing artifacts in our collection and take the opportunity to ask questions about the material culture of Montana’s past. One OPI Renewal Unit is available by completing this form by Monday, September 28, 11:59 p.m.  Late submissions will not be accepted.

Thursday, October 1, 6:30 p.m.

Click on the session title for the Zoom link: A New Home for Montana's HistoryDavid Koel

Take a field trip to the future in this detailed look at the plans for the new state-of-the-art Montana Heritage Center.David Koel, design director for Cushing Terrell—architects of the Montana Historical Society’s new home—will lead participants in an examination of the features that will establish MHS as one of the premier museums in the West and top tourist destinations in Montana. 

Tuesdays, October 20 and 27, 1:00 p.m.

Collections Care: When Disaster Strikes…Plan to Strike Back!—Kellyn Younggren and Jerry McGee, MHS

 Zoom link:  Session 1 - October 20    Zoom link:  Session 2 - October 27

This two-part webinar, sponsored by the Montana State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB), will focus on practical tips and tools for emergency planning and preparedness—for collections, people, and the structures that house them. In the first interactive presentation on October 20, MHS photograph archivist Kellyn Younggren will discuss the essential elements needed for an effective Emergency Preparedness Plan, including contact information, clearly delineated assignments, supplies, and regular training and updates. The session will be followed on October 27 with a broader discussion of emergency planning by MHS security supervisor Jerry McGee, who will hone in on planning for large scale emergencies and disasters, as well as the preplanning that can be made to possibly avoid such catastrophic events or at least mitigate potential loss to staff or facilities. The discussion will also include essential relationship building with local emergency responders. There will plenty of time for questions. Please join us and share your concerns and your own tips and tricks!

This conference is supported by crucial funding from the
Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation

Dennis and Phyllis Washington