Monday, April 4, 2016


The Montana Historical Society Research Center has funds to digitize thirty maps this summer, and they are wondering which ones to choose. So they asked me to ask you. Are there particular maps in the Montana Historical Society's vast map collection to which you wish you had electronic access? Or are there types of maps you'd like--for example, maps showing transportation routes? Maps showing irrigation projects on tribal land? A map showing steamboat wrecks? Town plat maps? (MHS received a collection of 124 plat maps that came to us from MDT, which include plats for small towns like Lima, Loma, Joplin, Marsh and Mildred. They could choose 30 of these for digitization.) If you have an opinion, now's the time to make your voice heard. Email me and I'll pass on your requests to the Research Center staff.

The maps chosen for digitization this summer will be added to the over 500 maps already available as part of the Mapping Montana and the West Collection at Montana Memory, "an online source for digital collections relating to Montana's cultural heritage." 

Before talking with the research center about this upcoming digitization project, I had not realized the treasures available through Mapping Montana and the West (a joint project between UM and MHS). Many of my favorite maps have already digitized, for example early bird's eye or panoramic maps--including Deer Lodge 1883, Bozeman, 1884 and 1898, and Kalispell 1897. There are also several early railroad maps already online, including Reconnaissance and survey of a railway route from Mississippi River near the 35th parallel north latitude to Pacific Ocean, Map No. 1 (1854) and Map 2 (1855); Great Northern Railway and connections, 1895; the Northern Pacific Railroad and connections, 1890; Map showing Great Northern, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad System, 1901; and the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway, 1908.

There are also a number of maps on homesteading, reservations (including Ceded lands of the Crow Indian Reservation, Montana: Lands taken on the Huntley Irrigation project and lands to be sold, 1911), and military exploration (for example, A Sketch of the route explored along and through the Big Horn Mountains from Camp Brown, Wyoming, to Military Post No.2, Montana, under the immediate supervision of Lieut. P.H. Sheridan, U.S.A. in the month of July 1877). And, of course, many many more.

I found the examples above by using Montana Memory's advance search function. If you want to explore their map collection, perhaps the best thing to do is to start on the search pageBefore searching, make sure you click on "show" Type of Material.

Then check the box next to "Print Materials/Maps." With that box checked, scroll back to the top and enter your search term. Try "military" or "Fort Peck" or "Glacier" or the name of your town and see what comes up. 

P.S. It's rapidly improving, but Montana Memory is still not the most intuitive site to interact with. In fact, it can be downright difficult to find material of interest on the site--despite the fact that it is an amazing treasure trove. You can find information about a few of my other favorite Montana Memory collections here.

P.P.S. You can find other posts about teaching with maps and online map collections here

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