Browse Exhibits (8 total)

Rich Treats: Stories of Food from Eastern Montana


Food production, preparation and consumption--especially eating together—is crucial to the formation of communities.  For most women in early Montana, food occupied their days.  They grew gardens, preserved fruits, vegetables, and meats, and cooked in all conditions.  Explore this exhibit to learn about the relationship between women, food and community in eastern Motnana.


The Bud Lake and Randy Brewer Collection

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Relationships, Agency, and Power Dynamics: Photographers of the US West and Their Photographic 'Subjects'

Navigate the exhibit by clicking through the links at the right. We recommend starting with the "Introduction" page. At the bottom of each page is a link to the next page.

Mueller Family Legacy

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In today’s world of email, social media and emojis, the ability to communicate almost instantly with anyone in the world has changed the way we view personal connections. Writing a letter by hand, placing it in an envelope with a stamp, and then dropping it in the mailbox is an old fashioned, nostalgic activity rendered almost unnecessary. The handwritten and typed correspondence of the Mueller family offers a window into their thoughts and daily activities before the advent of lightning fast communication. 

Oscar's letters to Josephine Cook shows the evolution from formality of two people getting to know each other while separated to the familarity of two people in love. Oscar's professional correspondence reveals the difficulties he faced in his career as an attorney and the mayor of Lewistown. World War II meant the separation of his two sons from their family as they served overseas. Letters were the highlight of the soldier's day while letters home reassured worried parents. Prolific correspondence reveals the level of passion and dedication both Oscar and his son George Mueller shared for Montana historical research. 

This exhibit is but a small representation of the Oscar Mueller Family Papers collection. Find out more from the Montana Historical Society Research Center and Photo Archives.

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Swaney Family Papers

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        One of the most powerful aspects of extended family archival collections is their documentation of traditions.  Whether a family meal or a pearl necklace on a 16th birthday, every family has some traditions they treasure.   For the Swaney family, that tradition was writing—letters, poetry, or academic essays—each member wrote with passion, skill and artistry.  Some of it was everyday fair such as family correspondence. Other writings were carefully cultivated and encouraged such as a childhood diary, college essays for English and Journalism classes, poetry, glee club missives, entries in literary magazines, and family histories.  

        More widespread circumstances also shaped the writings found in the Swaney Family manuscript collection. Letters written by Andrew Swaney to his wife and children while he was deployed in the Philippine Islands in 1898 were kept, and connected Andrew not only to his children while he was overseas, but to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Love of poetry united two souls, Alexander and Mildred, in matrimony. When a tragic accident stole one of that couple away, the ardency in the letter provided a precious link between mother and daughter, 15 years later.  The power of family paper collections is not only the informational value it might give to researchers and historians, but the link between generations it creates, both within family units and to a wider community. They demonstrate fears, ambitions, love, loss, and lifeways that have remained unchanged, 100 years later despite the rapid changes in technology and culture.

Montana Brewery Oral History Project


The Montana Brewery Oral History Project takes an in depth look at the rebirth and rise of the craft brewing industry in the state of Montana during the final two decades of the 20th century. Although seen as a booming industry now, a ban of on-site sale through taprooms hindered breweries from reaching their full potential in the early years. After two failed attempts to legalize taprooms in the 1995 and 1997 Montana legislative sessions, in 1999 a compromise mapped out on a bar room napkin was finally reached which resulted in the passage of a taproom bill. Since that time, brewery taprooms have become cultural hubs in the communities they occupy, bringing together individuals from all backgrounds who all share the same love for Montana brewed beer. 

The collection contains a series of interviews, conducted in 2017, with brewery owners, wholesalers, and retailers. These individuals worked in the industry in the 1980's and 90's, many of whom lobbied in multiple sessions for the legalization of on-site sales. 

Times of Trouble, Times of Change: Montana and the Great War


When the United States entered World War I in April 1917 to make the world “safe for democracy,” a conflict over American ideals erupted at home.

Many Montanans supported the war effort. They worked on farms, labored in mines, knit items for soldiers, and conserved food.

Patriotic fervor brough some communities together and tore others apart. Fear and suspicion seeped into daily life, while laws and mob action silenced dissent.

Montanans, including non-citizen Native Americans, served in the military in record numbers. Those who returned found their home communities struggling with influenza and drought.

During these trying times, Montanans grappled with questions that resonate today: 

What does it mean to be American?

What role do immigrants have in American society?

How much liberty should we sacrifice for security?

Which ideals are we fighting to protect? 

Appropriate, Curious, & Rare: Montana History Object by Object

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Objects from the past comprise the heart and soul of the Montana Historical Society. Individually, these items provide fascinating glimpses into the lives of earlier generations of Montanans. Together, however, the stories told by the hundreds of thousands of items that the Society holds in trust intertwine to form a rich tapestry illustrating our shared history. This online exhibit features only a few “appropriate, curious, and rare” gems from the Society’s vast collections. While each item is, in its own unique way, somehow outstanding, when considered together they help us better understand who we, as Montanans, are today, and how we got here.

Note: This exhibit is part of a larger effort that will include a book and educational materials devoted to the same topic. This project was made possible in part through funding provided the Cultural & Aesthetic Grant Program. The website’s title comes from an 1876 publication in which the eleven-year-old Historical Society of Montana states, in outlining its collection policy, “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, and no longer scattered abroad.”

Partial funding for this project was provided by Montana Cultural Trust.

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Ed Craney—the Voice of Montana

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In the 1920s, Montanans reeled from blows caused by drought, economic depression, and illness. Half of Montana's farmers lost their land between 1919 and 1925, and thousands moved out of the state. When Edmund "Ed" Craney opened the state's fifth radio station in Butte in 1929, his voice reached across the plains and created a community among those that remained.

This community grew as Craney extended his business operations into the Z Bar network, which included stations across Montana. Craney's influence expanded beyond radio to television and the broadcasting industry at the state and national level. When he retired in 1961, he turned his focus full time to philanthropy, predominantly through the Greater Montana Foundation which he had established in 1958. Through this foundation, Craney's philanthropic efforts continue to impact the cultural heritage of Montana. Ed Craney died in Montpelier, Idaho in 1991 at the age of 86.

This digital exhibit explores Ed Craney's impact on the state and presents images from collections held by the Museum and the Research Center of the Montana Historical Society.

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