Have you been following Montana Madness, our March Madness-style competition that pit object against object to determine Montana's Most Awesome Object?
The journey began with 65 objects, on display in our first major online exhibit "Appropriate, Curious, & Rare: Montana History Object by Object." Fans narrowed the choices down to 16, then 8, and then the Final Four. Now only the Smith Mine Disaster Board and the C. M. Russell painting When the Land Belonged to God remain to battle for the crown.
It's the clash of the titans.
The #1 Seed Smith Mine Disaster Board represents Montana's mining heritage, the tremendous sacrifices miners made for their families and their country and the need for constant vigilance when it comes to workers' safety. Here's the back story: At 8 a.m., Saturday, February 27, 1943, Emil Anderson and seventy-six other coal miners entered Smith Mine #3 near the community of Bearcreek. One hour and thirty-seven minutes later, a powerful explosion occurred. Only three workers escaped from the mine. Within its depths, thirty men died instantly from the forceful blast and another forty-four soon suffocated. Anderson was part of this latter group. In the short time he had remaining, he used the materials he had available to leave his family this message on the lid of this dynamite box: “It’s 5 minutes pass [sic] 11 o’clock Agnes and children I’m sorry we had to go this way God bless you all Emil with lots [of] kisse[s].”
The #3 Seed, When the Land Belonged to God, by Charles M. Russell, exemplifies a romantic view of the Old West and represents the work of Montana's most beloved adopted son. No person better personifies Montana’s perception of its colorful past than does the “Cowboy Artist,” Charles M. Russell (1864–1926). No painting better exemplifies Russell’s artistic genius than does When the Land Belonged to God. At face value a preeminent portrayal of wildlife, it is also a testament to Russell’s belief in the superiority of life in Montana before it was changed forever by the farmers and boosters who closed the open range.
Voting remains open in this too-close-to-call contest until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, 2018. I hope you'll make your preference known. And check back on the Montana Madness webpage on Thursday afternoon to find out whether the Smith Mine board or the Russell painting took the day.
P.S. If you engaged your students this contest, would you take a moment and drop me a line? We're evaluating the success of this contest and I'd love specific feedback from educators.