Sixth Annual Montana Heritage Project

Youth Heritage Festival

March 29–30, 2004 • Helena, Montana

Librarian of Congress James Billington speech • American Folklife Center Director Peggy Bulger speech • Governor Judy Martz speech Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda McCulloch speech
Helena Independent Record article

Students from around the state gathered in Helena for the Youth Heritage Festival during the end of March. 130 students and their teachers spent two days talking about the work they've done in their communities and being appreciated for that work.

They heard from people such as the Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, the Director of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress Peggy Bulger, Governor Judy Martz, Art Ortenberg, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda McCulloch, how history is created by everyone—not just the famous—and how important it is to collect each person's story. The students and teachers were thanked for the necessary work they're doing.

Dr. Billington (standing) tells the students, "History is not just made by public figures. History, particularly in a democracy, is made in some sense by everybody and its important that we collect their memories, their experiences." Dr. Billington is flanked by (from left) Brian Cockhill of the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation; Kris Goss, K-12 Education Policy Advisor to Governor Judy Martz; Peggy Bulger; Governor Judy Martz; Arnold Olsen, Director of the Montana Historical Society; Liz Claiborne; and Art Ortenberg.

The Festival began with a welcome from Heritage Project Director Michael Umphrey, followed by thoughtful words from Peggy Bulger. The group then traveled to the Capitol to set up displays of their projects and several students remained on hand to explain the work they've done to curious onlookers.

Then students presented their research projects to each other. The audience members were attentive and appreciative as they learned about such subjects as mining in Roundup, what Whitefish was like 100 years ago, how people in Corvallis made it through the Depression, and how communities such as Townsend are pieced together much like a quilt.

Top: (From left) Andrew Alger from Roundup High School, Kristin Kuhn from Bigfork High School, and Michael Umphrey listen as Peggy Bulger tells the group, "Throughout these two days, people are going to tell you that the work you're doing matters. Well, it really does. It matters more than you know. I have to tell you that as the director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, I see the living, breathing proof that the interviews you are doing, the photographs you are taking, and the oral histories that you are video-taping are used by scholars and researchers at the Library of Congress and at the Montana Historical Society."

Left: World-renowned pianist Philip Aaberg talks to students about how growing up in the Hi-Line town of Chester, Montana helped shape his music and his career.

Above: After setting up their display at the Capitol Rotunda, these Ronan freshmen sit on the steps to "contemplate" what they've learned.

Right: A group of Harlowton students get a birds-eye view of of the displays set up on the first floor of the Capitol. Photographer Paxton Wojtowick, also from Harlowton, walked another flight of stairs to take this photo.

The displays that are set up in the Rotunda naturally invoke curiosity among passersby. The man above reads what was done in White Sulphur Springs. Corvallis' display shown at right, is always inviting—and intriguing.


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