To preserve, promote and foster the history of Gallatin County and Southwest Montana.
Who They Are and What They Do
There isn’t really a better way to connect with the past than to walk in an underground tunnel through which prisoners once passed on their way to the courthouse, the final passage before the sealing of their fate. Or to stand in a room and look up at the place someone was once hanged (for the last time in Gallatin County) before a room of 20 witnesses. That is what the Gallatin History Museum provides. Real, visceral, personal historical experiences.
Adjacent to the county courthouse, off of Main Street in Bozeman, is the old county jail where the Gallatin History Museum is now located. Today, the Gallatin Historical Society (GHS) has full access to the building and maintains it in exchange for access to the entire space, including the ominous tunnel to the courthouse. Weaving my way through the museum, I was surprised by the multitude of rooms and exhibits as well as the variety of artifacts placed thoughtfully throughout the building. From a mini cabin that simulates pioneer living to century-old instruments to collections of oral histories, there are countless nuggets of historical gold. The entire museum operates as a non-profit and relies upon donations for their many exhibits. While the presentation of the articles themselves are wonderfully orchestrated, the building itself provides the perfect backdrop, as one’s imagination can’t help but be intrigued by images of life in an old jailhouse.
The Gallatin Valley Agricultural Heritage Exhibit and BACF
Recently, the GHS decided to design a new exhibit that focuses solely on Gallatin Valley’s agricultural heritage. As the museum’s executive director, Cindy, explains, agriculture is the cornerstone of development in Bozeman. It is the reason so many of us today have the opportunity to enjoy and experience this wonderful place we call home. Yet, agriculture as a field of work is not glamorous nor does it garner much attention. Those who paved the way years ago are often forgotten.
In order to pay homage to those hard-working people, the Gallatin History Museum is preparing this exhibit as a way of sharing untold stories. The foundation of our community is agriculture and the GHS is finding a way of connecting new residents and visitors with these old stories through the agricultural heritage exhibit. Located on the top floor of the museum in an old office space that was adjacent to the former women’s and juvenile jail cells, is the home of the future agricultural exhibit.
In preparation for the exhibit, museum staff are working on compiling a plethora of digital information to be presented via touch screens, which will provide an interactive means of discovery for visitors. The GHS is always exploring new ways of presenting history and information in an innovative, engaging way that doesn’t simply rely on artifacts in glass or pictures on walls. Using grant funding from the Bozeman Area Community Foundation, they will have the opportunity to condense and organize information into these touchscreens for people to explore, both visually and physically. Not only so, but each of the two touch screens will be able to house much more information than could ever be presented in the available space, including oral histories that will be available through the touchscreens and their embedded speakers. Together with other historical articles, this exhibit will bring to light a part of the Valley’s history that often goes unnoticed but is undeniably the breath and life of the ground we walk.
The Bozeman Area Community Foundation is so excited to be partnering with the Gallatin Historical Society to bring these previously overlooked stories to life, connecting past to present, and joining with others in saying “thank you” to those who form the backbone of our community.
We encourage you to stop by the Gallatin Historical Museum to check out all of the wonderful work they are doing and the incredible exhibits inside. There are also lots of ways you can help out by volunteering, such as preparing for events or doing research. You can contact them and get connected by calling (406)522-8122 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you have some gems you would like to contribute to preserve history, they are always accepting donations!