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Montana Historical Society Research Center
Since the founding of the Montana Historical Society in Virginia City in 1865, our historians, curators and educators have worked as a team to save and share the stories of Montana.
The mission of the Montana Historical Society is to promote an understanding and appreciation of Montana’s cultural heritage—past, present, and future.
Charles M. Russell Research Materials from the James B. Rankin Collection
James Brownlee Rankin–a New York and San Bernadino, California, teacher and historian–collected information concerning Montana artist Charles M. Russell in preparation for a Russell biography and an illustrated catalog of his work. The collection consists primarily of correspondence concerning Russell’s life and work as remembered by his friends, acquaintances, and art owners. This series, constituting eighty percent of the collection, is the most valuable for research on Russell and on ranching and cowboy life in the open range era. Many friends and acquaintances of Russell corresponded extensively with Rankin, and their reminiscences would have been the basis of his book. Other correspondents discussed the Russell paintings and sculpture in their collections. The letters also reflect the provenance of much of the artist’s work, kinds of shows that it appeared in, and methods by which it was acquired. The collection also contains photographs, clippings, and research notes. The Research Notes series of the collection contains listings of paintings, notes on interviews, and transcriptions of letters of Russell and others. Also, there are several photographs of pieces of Russell’s work owned by various institutions and individuals at that time. The collection is completed by a series of Clippings gathered by Rankin which generally concern Russell’s life.
A collection of historic cookbooks from various community organizations.
Evelyn Cameron Diaries
Evelyn J. Cameron was a pioneer photographer and rancher in eastern Montana. Originally from England, she moved to Montana with her husband Ewen in 1893. Evelyn kept extensive diaries from 1893 until her death in 1928. The diaries (35 in total) presented here chronicle her daily life including books she read, chores, lists of letters written and received, local and national events, photographs taken, social activities, verbatim copies of special letters, and weather. The diaries also include innumerable tidbits of information that reveal the fabric of her life and by extension that of many women in eastern Montana at the time. For instance, her diaries include the number of eggs gathered and chickens killed per month; notes on the amount of butter she churned; methods of skinning a coyote and breaking a horse; accounts of money made from her photos and garden produce; lists of supplies; and Evelyn’s favorite poems and quotes. In order to make ends meet Evelyn also became an accomplished photographer, working for hire for local families wanting to records special events. Her images capture the surprising ethnic and cultural diversity that marked life in the Terry, Montana area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The diaries record when and where she took images, for whom, why and on what occasions, and what her thoughts were at the time. Taken together the images and diaries provide wonderful insights into the life of early eastern Montana ranch families.
Home Ground Radio Interviews
Home Ground Radio Interviews Collection consists of digitally recorded interviews conducted by Brian Kahn on the Home Ground Radio program between 1996 and 2016. Topics covered in the interviews range from the economy, religion, education, the judicial system, wildlife, medicine, the timber industry, conservation, agriculture, among other topics.
Home Ground Radio, Changes and Choices in the American West, is an award-winning half-hour, weekly interview program produced by Artemis Common Ground. This public affairs program is broadcast on more than fifty public radio stations throughout Montana and northern Wyoming and is also distributed on the internet. Home Ground's mission is to stimulate dialog about the changes and choices affecting our future, and we pursue that goal through substantive and thought-provoking discussion of western economic, religious, cultural, social and environmental issues as well as our place in the larger world. While examining areas of conflict, we emphasize shared values – the often-overlooked “common ground” of diverse community interests. Guests and their views are always treated with respect. Our goal is for listeners to develop appreciation of differing viewpoints and to encourage them to fulfill their responsibility as informed citizens in a democracy. Home Ground presents issues in ways that are interesting and meaningful to a broad audience.
Brian Kahn began Home Ground Radio in 1996 after he approached Yellowstone Public Radio General Manager Marvin Granger with the idea for the show. Brian grew up in California where he graduated from the University of California Boalt Law School. Kahn's first experiences working in Montana started with working on a ranch in the Madison Valley. After college he worked as a collegiate boxing coach, politician, documentary filmmaker and lawyer/mediator. He also worked as the Montana Director of the Nature Conservancy from 1989 to 1996. In October 2020 Brian died of natural causes while on a hunting trip with his wife Sandra near Lewistown at age 73.
Kamlowsky (Rosetta) Radio Interviews
Rosetta Kamlowsky was one of the first female broadcasters in Montana. She hosted the Scooter radio show on KBLL Radio beginning in 1968. Over the course of her broadcasting career she interviewed everyone from her local friends and neighbors to Montana Governors and Hollywood celebrities. This is a collection of those interviews dating from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Letters, Diaries, and Documents from the Montana Historical Society
Research Montana’s rich history using materials from the collections of the Archives at the Montana Historical Society. This collection includes digitized manuscript materials like diaries and letters, as well as the records of government agencies, corporations and organizations. Collection strengths include documentation of state and local government, 19th century businesses, overland journeys, mines and mining, political figures, national parks, wilderness and environmental issues, fraternal and/or service clubs, and women’s history. Check back regularly for new materials being added to this collection.
Livestock Brand Registrations for Montana
This 60,000-page collection of historical livestock brands encompasses the beginning of brand registrations in Montana in 1873 and includes new brand registrations, transfers, and re-registrations. Starting in 1911 brands were registered for a period of 10 years and were re-registered at the start of each decade (1921,1931, etc.). The original records were compiled by the Brands Enforcement Division of the Montana Department of Livestock and digitized by the Montana Historical Society. The online collection contains records from 1873-1980 and 2001-2010.
Local Histories of Montana
These locally-produced books of 100-1000 pages contain the rich, detailed stories of small Montana communities from the homestead era and beyond. Fully searchable by keyword, the books include family histories, photographs, maps, diary excerpts, letters, and first-hand recollections of significant events. This growing collection currently covers 29 of Montana’s 56 counties.
Mapping Montana and the West
Research Montana and the West using maps from the collections of various institutions throughout the state of Montana, including contributions from the Montana Historical Society Research Center and The University of Montana Mansfield Library. This collection includes everything from territorial maps to present day topographic maps. Institutions are always adding new content, so check back often.
Military Enlistments (Montana), 1890-1918
This digital collection is comprised of State of Montana enlistment cards for the Montana National Guard from 1890 to 1918, arranged alphabetically by surname. It includes enlistment information for all persons who entered the service in Montana during this period, including Spanish-American War and pre-World War I enlistments. This card file is part of the Montana Adjutant General’s Office Records 1889-1959 (RS 223).
Military Enlistments (Montana), World War I
The bulk of this collection consists of WWI army enlistments, organized into groups by surname. The collection also includes marines, marine officers, and nurses, as well as dishonorable discharges, fraudulent enlistments, and enemy aliens. This card file is part of the Montana Adjutant General’s Office Records 1889-1959 (RS 223).
Military Enlistments (Montana), World War II
This collection consists of military enlistment records for World War II (1939-1945), arranged alphabetically by surname. All branches of military service are included together, with their respective branches marked on the individual cards. This card file is part of the Montana Adjutant Generals Office Records 1889-1959 (RS 223).
Montana Council of Defense Records
The membership of the Montana Council of Defense, established in response to an executive order by President Woodrow Wilson, was initially appointed by Governor Sam Stewart. Challenges to their authority however led Stewart to call a special session of the legislature in February 1918. The legislature officially established the Council in on February 20, 1918 and empowered it to "do all acts and things not inconsistent with the Constitution of laws of the State of Montana, or of the United States, which are necessary of proper for the public safety and for the protection of life and public property… and things necessary or proper so that the military, civil and industrial resources of the State may be most efficiently applied toward maintenance of the defense of the State and nation… “ The Council first concerned itself with agricultural production and boosting enthusiasm for the war to counteract Montana’s strongly anti-war labor unions, radical farmers, and large immigrant population. The war propaganda campaign however gradually led to the suppression of all dissent with which the Council eventually became identified. With the Armistice signed in November 1918, the Council quickly ceased active functioning although it was not formally dissolved until July 1921 after the United States had signed a treaty with Germany.
Montana Foodways - Richland and Roosevelt Counties
Food production, preparation and consumption–especially eating together—is essential 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 collection to view the artifacts, recipes, and document that reveal the relationship between women, food and community in eastern Montana.
Montana Historical Society Civil War Era Diaries and Correspondence
Montana Territory was formed during the waning months of the Civil War, but her people, politics, culture and subsequent history are steeped in the issues of the war and the tumultuous period that followed. These records consist of wartime diaries, letters, and reminiscences that share the experiences, thoughts and daily lives of those who came to the region during the 1860s. Some came directly as a result of the upheaval, some to rebuild lives, and others to simply make money and return home. The issues and ideas presented through these records form a bedrock for Montanan’s to understand the beginnings of the territory, its role on the regional/national stage, and especially the beginnings of the state’s earliest communities.
Montana in the National Register of Historic Places
Complete nominations for 89 historic sites located throughout Montana. In addition to detailed descriptions and discussion of historical significance, the nomination packets include maps, blueprints and photographs (typically found in Section 10). The Montana State Historic Preservation Office houses more than 1600 such forms; this digital collection encompasses only born-digital nominations from 2006-2010.
Montana State Prison Records 1869-1974
The physical collection consists of records of the Montana State Prison (1869-1974), the Board of Pardons (1890-1965), the Board of Prison Commissioners (1890-1962), and the United States Penitentiary, Montana Territory. This digital collection will ultimately comprise approximately ten thousand prisoner description sheets with mug shots. Post-1932 records may also include FBI arrest sheets. Check back regularly for new materials being added to this collection.
Montana’s African American Heritage Places
The Montana’s African American Heritage Places collection consists of histories, photographs, and architectural descriptions of properties across the state associated with African American history. Although African Americans never totaled more than one percent of the state’s population, they have been in the place that would become Montana since the earliest days of non-Indian presence and contributed greatly to Montana’s culture, economy, and religious life. Each corner of the state has significant stories to tell about the African American experience in the West. From 2014-2016, the Montana Historical Society oversaw the survey of 51 historic properties – 26 in Helena and 25 in other communities – and created Historic Property Record forms for each. These forms constitute this collection.
Mydas Capps Zieg Diaries
Diaries (1920-1997) kept by Mydas Capps Zeig, teacher and Missoula County Deputy Superintendent of Schools. The diaries include descriptions of Zeig’s daily life as a teen; a flapper in the 1920s; college life; teaching in Rapelje, Montana; her marriage and children; her lobbying efforts; and work as a school superintendent. Mydas Capps Zieg was born March 7, 1908, on a homestead in Alberta, but spent much of her youth in California. After graduating from Berkeley in 1929, she took a teaching job in Rapelje, MT teaching English, speech, drama and coaching girls’ basketball. While in Rapelje she met Reuben Zieg, the math and science teacher. They married in 1932. In 1945 the couple moved to Missoula. Reuben taught math at Missoula County High School while Mydas became active in AAUW and PTA. She would eventually serve as president of the state PTA. During the 1950s she lobbied the state legislature for elected rather than appointed school boards. She began a new career in her 60s as Missoula’s Deputy County Superintendent of Schools. Mydas passed away on April 6, 1998 in Missoula, Montana.
Photographs from the Montana Historical Society
Learn about Montana’s rich history through these images—a sampling of the 500,000 photos in the collection of the Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives that illustrate the diverse history of the state and its people, as well as the beauty of its landscape.
Publications and Ephemera from the Montana Historical Society
Research Montana’s rich history using published materials from the collections of the Library at the Montana Historical Society. This collection includes pamphlets, posters, books, and state and federal documents. Check back regularly for new materials being added to this collection.
Voices of Labor
Through the Voices of Labor: Preserving the Montanans at Work and New Deal in Montana Oral History Interviews project, the Montana Historical Society digitized three major oral history projects in its collections: Montanans at Work, Metals Manufacturing in Four Montana Communities, and New Deal in Montana/Fort Peck Dam. These 600+ interviews conducted in the 1980s capture the stories of Montanans in the mining, agriculture, and forest products industries, as well as Montanans working in Depression-era New Deal programs, especially the construction of the Fort Peck Dam. The product was made possible through a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).
Home PageMontana Historical SocietyDigital CollectionCharles M. Russell Research Materials from the James B. Rankin CollectionCommunity CookbooksEvelyn Cameron DiariesHome Ground Radio InterviewsKamlowsky (Rosetta) Radio InterviewsLetters, Diaries, and Documents from the Montana Historical SocietyLivestock Brand Registrations for MontanaLocal Histories of MontanaMapping Montana and the WestMilitary Enlistments (Montana), 1890-1918Military Enlistments (Montana), World War IMilitary Enlistments (Montana), World War IIMontana Council of Defense RecordsMontana Foodways - Richland and Roosevelt CountiesMontana Historical Society Civil War Era Diaries and CorrespondenceMontana in the National Register of Historic PlacesMontana State Prison Records 1869-1974Montana’s African American Heritage PlacesMydas Capps Zieg DiariesPhotographs from the Montana Historical SocietyPublications and Ephemera from the Montana Historical SocietyVoices of Labor CityHelena Contributor TypeArchives
A map of Lewis and Clark's track across the western portion of North America from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean : by order of the executive of the United States in 1804, 5, & 6
An automobile tour including Rocky Mountain Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks : Denver, Colo. to Glacier National Park, Mont.
Helena, illustrated, capital of the state of Montana : a history of the early settlement and the Helena of today, showing the resources of the city, its commercial advantages, manufactures and wonderful growth, with illustrations of public buildings, prom
History, Second Regiment Infantry, National Guard Montana : mustered into Federal service June 30, 1916, mustered out of Federal service November 3, 1916