The Montana Historical Society’s newest exhibit, Who Speaks to You? Portraits from the Permanent Collection, includes an eclectic mix of paintings, juxtaposed to encourage visitors to look at portraits in a new way.
Portraits can reveal a lot about people and their times, if you know how to look for clues, notes Amanda Streeter Trum, curator of collections at MHS. Examining objects in the artwork, considering the backdrop, and observing the artist’s color palette reveal important information about the subject of the art.
“Experiencing art is a really personal thing; we all bring our unique experiences and opinions that color the way we may or may not interact with the piece in front of us,” Streeter Trum said. “We hope the exhibit will provide visitors an opportunity to see portraits in a different way or discover a new artistic style they enjoy.”
The exhibit opened Sept. 10, and no opening reception was held due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
It includes about 50 portraits of interesting people and pets whose presence has enriched the lives they touched and, in some cases, the larger state of Montana. The artwork is both traditional as well as abstract, Streeter Trum said.
“So many traditional portraits represent only a certain segment of society, often wealthy white men,” she added. “This is a playful exhibit and we want to show an eclectic mix of people and art.”
The museum–at 225 North Roberts, P.O. Box 201201, Helena, MT 59620-1201– is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
I wish I could visit, but Helena is a bit of a drive from North Georgia. I’ve been a member of MHS since the 1980s, and am happy to say its research department has been very helpful in my research for my Montana Novels.
Montana The Magazine of Western History, a publication of the Montana Historical Society, is pleased to announce a contest for the best article on the history of the American West by an emerging scholar. We welcome submissions from graduate students, early-career faculty, and independent scholars. The deadline for submissions is January 5, 2020.
Prize: The winning manuscript, chosen by members of Montana The Magazine of Western History’s board of editors, will be published in an issue of the magazine, and the author will receive free registration, travel, and accommodations to the 2020 Montana History Conference in Butte, Montana, where they will give a talk on their project.
Published since 1951, Montana The Magazine of Western History showcases the people, places, and events that shaped the state and the West. In addition to scholarly feature articles, the magazine includes book reviews, commentaries on historical events and people, and advertising relevant to the West. For more information about the magazine, visit: https://mhs.mt.gov/pubs/magazine
Topic: The manuscript must show evidence of original research on significant facets of history or provide a new interpretation of historical events that changes the way we view a particular historical topic. Submissions needn’t deal with Montana history specifically, but must address a topic of historical relevance to the American West.
Length and Formatting:
Manuscript should be submitted as a WORD document, 3,500—7,500 words (excluding notes).
Please format the entire document in Times New Roman, 12-point font, double-spaced, with one-inch margins.
Place title and author at top of first page, no special formatting. No title page is needed.
Do not include any headers or footers, other than page numbers (bottom of page, right).
Citations: Please consult Chicago Manual of Style for formatting. Notes can be footnotes or endnotes, and should be done in WORD using the “Insert Endnote” feature under the “References” tab. Please do not number notes manually or as a separate document, and please change all ibids in notes to full citations. This ensures that no “ibid” gets parted from its parent during editing. After editing, we can change to ibid or an abbreviated citation where needed.
In addition to your manuscript, upload a curriculum vitae or résumé with up-to-date contact information (phone number, email, and mailing address).
I have been a member of the Montana Historical Society for over twenty years and depend on Montana The Magazine of Western History for accurate, well-written, and fully documented articles about Montana’s development. This award-winning magazine is a joy to read. If you enter the competition, best of luck. If you love history and don’t wish to enter the competition, you can subscribe here.
My den has had a wall calendar next to the desk from the Montana Historical Society for 25 years in a row. The Society’s four calendars for 2017 are a great example of their yearly selections.
I like the black and white archival photographs calendar since it comes every year as a membership benefit. There’s almost always a selection of paintings from Montana artist Charlie Russell and a scenic photographs calendar and, as you see in the photograph here, Indian art.
Since I often write about Montana, all of these are inspirational. I find myself looking at them as I work almost as though their mandalas.
For non-members, these calendars, from top to bottom in the graphic, retail for $12.99 (an engagement calendar), $10.95, $9.95, and $14.99
Cowgirls and Cowboys
Growing up with westerns on TV and in the theaters, cowboys were an icon of the American west, larger than life and nearly mythic. However, photographs in “Cowgirls & Cowboys” show people at work. As the calendar’s introduction points out, these women and men worked in a beautiful place and came to know the land, weather and their animals very well. Nonetheless, they “endured long hours and difficult conditions for relatively little pay.”
The Lakota Way
This beautiful calendar features the work of Lakota and Iroquois artist Jim Yellowhawk, “whose work evokes Lakota star knowledge and the unique Lakota way of life.” He grew up on South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Reservation. You can see samples of his work on his website here.
Each month includes a Lakota wisdom story from teacher and historian Joseph M. Marshall III who grew up on Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. His books include The Lakota Way of Strength and Courage and The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn. On his website, he writes, “Cante wasteya nape ciyuzapelo. I take your hand in friendship. This is a common Lakota greeting. The literal meaning is with a good heart I take your hand.”
I’m drawn to Montana’s land, history and people. Even if you’ve never been there, a calendar from the Big Sky Country can brighten up a room. Chances are good, though, that your state or favorite place has a historical society as well. Their calendars remind us of why we like a place and–especially if there are kids in the house–have a wonderful educational value as well.
Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women’s Stories, edited by Martha Kohl (Montana Historical Society Press: May 2016), 288 pages, over 100 photographs.
When the histories of the west we studied in high school were written, the emphasis was on great men, both saints and devils, and what they did. We’re slowly finding out there was more to the story; this new book edited by Martha Kohl is part of our re-education. (I’m not sure why the cover photograph shown on Amazon has a slightly different subtitle than the book’s listing or the cover as shown on the MHS site.)
From the Publisher:
“Sheriff Garfield had just been elected to a second term in 1920 when he was fatally shot. His wife Ruth, a ranching woman with a young son, set aside her grief to serve out her husband’s term. She was Montana’s first female sheriff and served two years.
“Stories like Ruth Garfield’s fill the pages of Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women’s Stories. The women featured in this book range from late eighteenth-century Indian women warriors to twenty-first century Blackfeet banker Elouise Cobell. They span geography―from the western Montana women who worked for the Forest Service, to Miles City doctor Sadie Lindeberg. And they span ideology―from the members of the Montana Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, who led the fight for laws banning segregation in public accommodations, to the Women of the Ku Klux Klan. With grit and foresight, these women shaped Montana.”
From the Great Falls Tribune:
“Historian Martha Kohl edited the project, which grew from the MHS Women’s History Matters project marking 100 years of women’s suffrage in the state. Kohl started informally asking people to name 10 women in Montana history.
“Even the best educated seemed to stall at three — Sacajawea, Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin and photographer Evelyn Cameron. But then the stories came of great-grandmothers who homesteaded, widowed mothers who eked out a living in Butte and aunts who served during World War II.
“’In other words, Montanans knew about fascinating women — they just didn’t consider them historical,’ Kohl wrote.”
Martha Kohl (“Montana: Stories of the Land” and “I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings” [see my blog post about that book]) is a historical specialist at the Montana Historical Society.
Many of the essays in the book previously appeared on the MHS webpage Women’s History Matters: 1914 – 2014. The site also contains other references of interest to educators and historians.
According to the San Francisco Book Review, “Each of these stories are short, around three pages or so, and often accompanied by a picture. They tell an interesting story and that is what the contributors bring to life. A story that has been ignored, and if it wasn’t for contributors like these, then these stories would likely be lost forever. Hopefully something like this will bring a closer look to other states and their stories.”
People Before The Park, by Sally Thompson, Kootenai Culture Committee & Pikunni Traditional Association (MHS Press, July 2015), 256 pages with photographs.
The Great Northern Railway, one of the predecessor roads of today’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe, developed Glacier National Park’s roads, telephone system, power lines and famous hotels as a tourist destination for passengers on its Empire Builder and Western Star trains. The railroad’s influence on the park was immense.
The railroad called the Blackfeet, the Glacier Park Tribe, and often took representatives to faraway cities to advertise the park. The project was much more of an expedient promotion than a true cultural exchange. The soul of the park, however, will always be Kootenai and Blackfeet (Pikunni/Piegan).
When I worked as a bellman at Many Glacier Hotel in 1963 and 1964, I was fascinated by the Blackfeet and Kootenai names for many of the mountains, rivers and creeks. Some years later, while working as an editorial assistant for the first edition of Jack Holterman’s now-classic Place Names of Glacier and Waterton National Parks, I learned that these landmarks were given Indian names by early explorers such as James Willard Schultz and George Bird Grinnell. We’ve long needed the park’s story from its original people.
Slowly, some of the official place names are being changed. Some years ago, Trick Falls (named for its odd water flow) was changed to its Blackfeet name, Running Eagle (Pitawmáhkan) Falls. Mt. Wilbur, the distinctive peak across the lake from Many Glacier Hotel, is also hearing its Blackfeet used by bellmen, tour bus drivers, boat crew personnel and others. Now people are beginning to know it as Heavy Shield. One day, perhaps the mountain will hear its name in Blackfeet: Isokwi-awótan
Montana Historical Society
Now, with the publication by the Montana Historical Society Press of People Before The Park, information that has up to now been mostly confined to books intended for scholars and students of history is now accessible to a wider audience. I hope that the park’s concessionaires are selling this book in the hotel gift shops at Many Glacier Hotel, Lake McDonald Lodge, and Glacier Park Lodge.
From the Publisher
Step out of a world governed by clocks and calendars and into the world of the Kootenai and Blackfeet peoples, whose traditional territories included the area that is now Glacier National Park. In this book, the Kootenai and Blackfeet tribes share their traditions—stories and legends, foodways and hunting techniques, games and spiritual beliefs. Readers will discover a new respect for the people who were at home in the Crown of the Continent, all around the seasons. Sally Thompson has spent over thirty years working with the tribes of the Rocky Mountain West to tell history from their points of view. Her most recent work focused on repatriating human remains and sacred objects to tribes.
A Reviewer’s Perspective
“Thompson decided to take a different approach to the book. Rather than write it all herself, she asked the Kootenai Cultural Committee and the Blackfeet’s Pikunni Traditional Association to each author their own chapter.
“The result is a book that tells a descriptive story that comes alive for the reader. Historical photos are featured throughout the book. Thompson provides introductory geographical and cultural information and provides evidence of early trails through the park.” – Erin Madison in the Great Falls Tribune
Every hiker needs several things in his/her backpack: map, matches, flashlight, water, food, bear spray and a copy of this book. As always, the place tells us about the people who live there and the people who live there enhance our knowledge of the place.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two novels set partially in Glacier National Park, “The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande.”
It’s difficult to read about Montana without coming across Charlie Russell sooner or later. He’s the state’s most celebrated and most widely known artist. This book offers a view of Russell’s work in the collection of the Montana Historical Society in Helena. Nothing is better than seeing the paintings up close. If you can’t do that, this book is a fine introduction.
From the Publisher: Montana’s Charlie Russell brings to life the Montana Historical Society’s world-class collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, bronzes, and illustrated letters by the Treasure State’s famed “Cowboy Artist.” Using advanced digital technology, each of the 230 pieces in the Society’s permanent collection has been meticulously photographed to bring to life, in vivid color, Russell’s artistic mastery. Carefully researched scholarship illuminates the stories behind each artwork. The result is a catalog of Russell’s art as you’ve never seen it before.
From the Montana Historical Society Press Release
MHS RELEASING NEW CHARLIE RUSSELL BOOK MORE THAN 60 YEARS IN THE MAKING
“In 1952 the Montana Historical Society acquired the Malcolm Mackay family collection of the artwork of Charles M. Russell that became the heart of its unmatched assemblage of the famed Montana cowboy artist’s masterpieces, paintings, illustrated letters, sketches and sculpture.
“Since then, it has been the dream of many to reproduce the entire MHS Russell art collection in a high-quality book that would celebrate the artist’s vision of Montana and the breadth of his amazing career — that took him from cowboying in the Judith Gap to one of the best loved artists of the West…
“…K. Ross Toole, MHS director in 1952, said while raising funds to acquire the Mackay collection: ‘If Montana has contributed one thing to the heritage of the whole West, it is Charles M. Russell’s paintings …. It was Montana that inspired him; it was Montana that he painted.'”
With this book on your coffee table, you can turn off the TV for the Winter.
Historian Ellen Baumler (“Montana Moments: History on the Go,” April 2012) returned six months later with another book of Montana vignettes originating from her “History on the Go” radio program in Helena, Montana. Published by Montana Historical Society in October 2012), the 220-page book is available on Kindle and in paperback is aptly titled More Montana Moments.
The cover art, “Laugh Kills Lonesome,” comes from Charlie Russell. The text is supplemented with illustrations.
From the Publisher
Forget dreary dates and boring facts. More Montana Moments serves up a fresh batch of the most funny, bizarre, and interesting stories from Montana’s history. Meet the colorful cast of the famous and not-so-famous desperadoes, vigilantes, madams, and darned good men and women (and a few critters) who made the state’s history. Best of all, each vignette takes about two minutes to read. So have fun exploring Montana—and enjoy a little history as you go.
From the Montana Historical Society Bookstore
When Evelyn Cameron first rode into Miles City in the dark blue divided riding skirt she had ordered from California, oh, the scandal it caused. Ellen Baumler tells that story and more in More Montana Moments, a collection of more of the most funny, bizarre, and interesting stories from Montana’s history.
From the Book
“Artist Charles Marion Russell carefully chose the subjects of his art based on personal experience. He, more than any other western artist, painted what he knew with great longing and nostalgia for the cowboy way of life he lived and loved so well. In 1925, a year before his death, Russell painted “Laugh Kills Lonesome,” a tribute to this vanishing cowboy lifestyle…He painted himself into the picture as an old cowpoke stoppping by the warm and friendly circle fo a cup of coffee by an a hearty laugh at the end of a long day in the saddle.”
“A young and plucky eastern girl moves to the Wild West to be swept off her feet by a handsome and muscular cowboy: it’s the stereotypical plot of countless romance novels set in Montana.” – Montana Historical Society Press
We’ve all seen wedding stories like this in movies, novels and television shows. Some of those stories might even be real. However, historian Martha Kohl, a fifteen-year specialist at the the Montana Historical Society in Helena, found that the reality of Montana weddings over a 150-year period was every bit as romantic and absorbing as the fiction.
If you live in or near Helena, you can meet the author and enjoy the society’s new exhibit “And the Bride Wore…Montana Weddings, 1900-1960” on January 10th, between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at the MHS headquarters at 225 North Roberts.
From the Publisher:
Through engaging stories of romance, insightful analysis, and historic intriguing photographs, I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings provides an intimate and surprising look at an important tradition. I Do journeys through the last 150 years of Montana history, from the 1860s gold rush to the internet age, to reveal the lives of ordinary people, from Finnish homesteaders, Chinese restaurateurs, and Métis fiddlers to struggling miners, Blackfeet students, and Jewish merchants.
About the Exhibit:
The Montana Historical Society’s newest temporary exhibit, will examine how history has shaped weddings—and particularly wedding fashion—during the first half of the twentieth century. Sixteen delightful and diverse dresses will be on display, including a hand-stitched dress made of white lace and yellow silk ribbon (worn in Butte in 1907), a Crow elk-tooth dress (worn in Lodge Grass in 1945), and a ballerina-style white dress of synthetic satin, lace and tulle (worn in Hardin in 1957). An opening reception will be held January 10, 2013, from 6:30-8:00. The opening will feature a wedding dress fashion show, a 1950s style cake and punch reception, a book signing by Martha Kohl, author of I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings, and Slovenian wedding dance music. Don’t miss the fun! Viewers will be asked to participate in the exhibit by voting for their favorite ensemble and trying their hand at an old-fashioned Singer treadle sewing machine. The dresses will remain on exhibit through November 2013.
The exhibit is listed on line here with contact information and other details.
A long-time member of the Montana Historical Society, Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels partially set in Glacier National Park, including “The Sun Singer,” “Sarabande,” and the upcoming new adventure, “The Seeker.” Watch the trailer.
I look forward to my yearly calendars from the Montana Historical Society that come as part of my membership. They are filled with western scenes from the society’s photographic collection. Calendars are 8.5 x 11 inches and feature black and white photography.
The front of the 2012 calendar features a historic photo of Mt. Wilbur and Swiftcurrent Lake from Glacier National Park. If you love western history, you can join the MHS by calling 406-444-2918 or heading out to their website at www.montanahistoricalsociety.0rg. Memberships are $55 per year and include a subscription to the quarterly Montana The Magazine of Western History. Or, you can buy the calendar alone for $8.50, order from the museum store.
Maybe the 2012 calendar will inspire me to get started on my next novel set in Glacier National Park. Maybe it will inspire you to think of wild places in the Rocky Mountains.
New Museum Exhibits: Two exhibits open tonight (December 1, 2011) from 6-8 p.m. at the Montana Historical Society’s museum at 225 North Roberts in Helena, The Art of Story Telling: Plains Indian Perspectives and Mapping Montana: Two Centuries of Cartography. Wish I could be there.
The drawing pictured here is an example of “ledger art,” a transitional approach to recording stories and events by plains Indian nations between 1860 and 1900 as artists switched from the traditional paints and hides to ledger paper with crayon, colored pencils and water colors. The new exhibit will include the Walter Bone Shirt ledger book, on loan to the society.
According to the Plains Indian Ledger art Project, “Changes in the content of pictographic art, the rapid adjustment of Plains artists to the relatively small size of a sheet of ledger paper, and the wealth of detail possible with new coloring materials, marks Plains ledger drawings as a new form of Native American art.” For more information about ledger art, click here.