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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mining Montana Memory for Golden Resources

Have you checked out the Montana Memory Project lately, or ever?


Montana Memory provides access to digital collections that relate to Montana’s cultural heritage and government to make previously unavailable historic and cultural content available to the general public. You can think of it as Montana's version of the Library of Congress's digitization project (and if you haven't gone to that site, I highly recommend a visit.) 

But back to Montana.

I've mentioned  the Montana Memory Project in earlier posts, including this one on maps, this one on the Peggy Letters (newsletters sent by Miles City volunteers to Custer County men and women serving overseas); and this one on digitized National Register nominations. However, it's worth revisiting because it is such a rich resource. 

The Montana Historical Society is a partner in this project and over the years has added many photographs, documents, books, maps, audio, and other historical materials, including livestock brand records, military enlistment cards, and hundreds of photographs by esteemed eastern Montana photographers Evelyn Cameron and L. A. Huffman.

The crew at the Montana Memory Project has been working hard to make the site easier to use. It isn't perfect--but if you are looking for digitized primary sources, there's gold in them thar hills. Here are some tips for mining this resource.

  1. Use Advance Search. Always. (I find it helpful to do more, narrow searches rather than one large search.)
  2. Do you know what type of resource you are looking for (For example, a photograph or a county history book)? Narrow your search by Material Type.
  3. Do you know the collection name--or likely collections in which you'll find the information you are looking for (for example Central Montana Historical Photographs or Early Montana Histories)? Narrow your search by Collection. 
For example: I was recently looking for pictures of threshing crews. So I went to Montana Memory, selected advance search, selected photographs under type of material and typed in "threshing" for my search term. Among the images I found was this Evelyn Cameron picture of the "Williams family farm showing new Case steam-and gasoline-powered threshing machinery with five-member crew, ca. 1910," Montana Historical Society Photo Archives, PAc 90-87.G059-004.



Pretty cool, huh? 


Want more hints? Check out the Project's handy instructional videos, where you can learn not only tips for searching the site but also how to create a PowerPoint from the resources you find there.

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