Oral History Photographs from the Montana Heritage Project, 2004-05

All photos 2005 Michael L. Umphrey

These photos may be reproduced with attribution
to the Montana Heritage Project and Michael L. Umphrey

A good oral history project involves more than interviews, as important as those are. It includes preliminary and supplementary research about the topic, screening of the best interview subjects, organizing the material into new cultural artifacts (articles, presentations, radio programs, web pages), and processing and proper care of the materials gathered and created.

Bigfork: Bigfork senior and teacher Mary Sullivan visit with Bob and Jenny Reed at their home on Flathead Lake. Claire did a research project that combined oral interviews with both of them with research into letters Bob wrote home to Jenny from his tour in Vietnam in the 1960s. The research essay that resulted won first prize at the Montana Heritage Project Youth Heritage Festival in Helena in April 2005.

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Chester: Keyla Wendland, a junior at Chester High School, wears a diamond ring that came with a story. English teacher Renee Rasmussen introduced oral history by having students bring and heirloom from home along with information about it gathered by interviewing family members. The ring Keyla brought is one of three rings made from a three-diamond ring owned by her great-grandmother Sadie. Sadie arrived in Montana on a steamboat from St. Louis and became a milliner in Fort Benton. She married a man who rode a dogsled down from Canada. After they had three daughters, a mysterious man showed up one day driving a limousine and wearing a tuxedo. The three daughters spied on this from the barn. The man gave Sadie a small gift. Afterwards, the girls tried to get their mother to tell them what it was all about, but she refused. Later, they sneaked into her room and found the gift. A ring with three diamonds. "She went to her grave with uttering a word about it, Keyla said. But after her death, Sadie's daughters found the ring, which she had kept for decades. They had three rings made from it, each with a diamond from the original.

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Great Falls: Great Falls Central Catholic High School sophomore Alyssa Morren presents information to community members about her interview with James Fullerton, a WWII officer who was captured, held in Stalag III, and escaped through tunnels the prisoners dug. Eighteen sophomores in Sarah Zook's Computer Applications class interviewed eleven veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

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Harlowton: Ditch rider Keith Hill discusses the irrigation project with high school English teacher Nancy Widdicombe while student Ron Haydon videotapes. Harlowton High School students taped interviews with a wide range of people for a comprehensive oral history project: "Life on the Upper Musselshell River." They combined oral history with library and archival research to create a complex portrait of the people of the region today.

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Ronan: Christa Salomon at presents the military history of local veteran  Charles Bick as part of the public program that culminated the Veterans History PRoject at Ronan High School. Christa Umphrey's English classes compiled the articles they wrote into a book, Through Our Soldiers' Eyes, which will be published before Veterans Day by an on-demand publisher. It will join two previous collections published by previous classes in Ronan and will be available onlilne from Amazon.com.  Seated students from left: Andrew Graham, Erick Stedje, Sterling Green, Lauryn Lynch, and Nicole Starkel.

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Simms: Student Elicia Cataldo from Simms High School did extensive archival research at the Cascade County Library in Great Falls to prepare for her oral interview. She did a history of the Wyllis-Wippet automobile dealership that operated in Simms in the 1930 as part of the class project on the history of transportation in the Sun River Valley. Assisting her is volunteer Alice Heisel (center) and teacher Dorothea Susag (right).

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2005 The MONTANA HERITAGE PROJECT
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St. Ignatius, MT 59865
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A Project of the Montana Historical Society and the
American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
Sponsored by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation