January 28, 2015

Happy 150th Anniversary to the Montana Historical Society!

"It is for our people now to say whether they will preserve the early history of Montana in an enduring form, so that after times may know the thrilling drama here enacted."   

                                                        ~ Thos. J. Dimsdale, Editor, The Montana Post, 1865


Officially incorporated on February 2, 1865*, the Montana Historical Society and its historians, curators, educators and librarians have worked diligently through the years to collect, preserve, and share the stories of Montana's past.

We do this through our heritage resources—art, books, original documents and papers, artifacts, photographs, and even buildings throughout the state that we have helped to preserve.
The Montana Historical Society also brings the state’s history to you, through our educational and public programs, traveling exhibits, publications, museum store, and research center.
The Montana Historical Society has its own unique history, which you can read about in the Spring 2002, volume 52, number 1 issue of "Montana The Magazine of Western History", and has changed over the course of 150 years.
Replica of 1863 structure using original logs. First meeting of
"The Historical Society of Montana" held here February 25, 1865.
Photo credit: Montana Office of Tourism

With its beginnings in the Dance & Stuart Store of Virginia City, the Historical Society of Montana collections were later moved in 1873 to the law office of Wilbur Fisk Sanders. Shortly after the move to Helena, a fire destroyed the original collection and the work of restoring the library's collection began.

Library in the Montana State Capitol building, Helena, MT [ca. 1900]
Photo is of the entrance from the main hall and shows the oldest
printing press in Montana, located on the table in the foreground.
MHS Photo Archives #952-762
In 1887, the first public rooms in Helena were housed in the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse, and by 1902, the library moved into the newly-built Capitol as a state institution and was renamed the "Historical and Miscellaneous Department of the Montana State Library".

After the library was relocated
within the Capitol a couple of times, authority was given, as early as 1923, to fund a new building just for the library and museum, now called the "Historical Society of Montana". It took another thirty years before that goal was attained.
On January 8, 1953, the Society, renamed the "Montana Historical Society" in 1963, opened the doors of the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building to the public and has remained in its current location since that time.
Exterior view of the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building, ca. 1954
Photo credit: MHS Collection 1950-1955
Over the past 150 years, the mission of MHS has not altered. We work to promote an understanding and appreciation of Montana’s cultural heritage—past, present, and future. We are the guardians of Montana's memory and with your continued support, we will enhance that guardianship and will strive to be a highly regarded institution for another 150 years and longer!

Celebrate Montana history with us! Your interest and love of Montana’s past energizes our work. As reflected in the following comments by recent researchers, we function at our best when we serve you.
 "A treasure chest full of information. I appreciated your enthusiasm."
"I have never had better treatment; it made my visit memorable."

"Everybody was so friendly and helpful."

"I made my second visit to the MSH and again was treated with friendliness and enthusiasm. I thank you and your staff for that."

"We walked out of the building absolutely elated with the information and materials."

"Thanks for all you and your staff do for Montana History!"

"The students had an amazing experience with you last Friday and I want to express my sincere appreciation for your help."

"Thank you so much for everything. It was an absolute pleasure to do research in such a welcoming, good-spirited and knowledgeable environment."

With your continued research, donations, visits, participation and passion, more real stories of the past can be shared and more history is preserved for future generations.

*Join us at the Montana State Capitol Rotunda, Monday, February 2nd, 2015, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., to celebrate our 150th Anniversary. Beginning at 12:15 p.m., Governor Bullock and other state officials will provide a brief ceremony.