A Narrative History of the Montana Heritage Project

Family Artifacts as Points of Entry to the Past

Tim Schaff

Roundup High School


Students in Roundup read English Creek by Ivan Doig for a view of the area’s past. They explored their own families’ historical roots by researching the histories of the oldest artifacts in their families’ possession. Students found themselves conversing with parents and grandparents about objects that had long been on display in their homes but about which they had known little: a red Persian carpet from pre-revolutionary Russia, a photograph of great-grandparents in Tuscany, a book of family history going back to 1066 A.D., a tea cozy from Scotland, a necklace from Crete, and a clock that had been a wedding gift to great-great-grandparents.

These essays, along with photographs of the artifacts, formed the core of a book prepared for the community archives. With this introductory research completed, students turned to a more complete study of the homestead era, relying on readings and oral interviews. Some of the questions they researched included: Why did various families decide to move to this valley during the homestead era? Where did they come from, what were they facing, and what did they experience? What projects of the New Deal changed life in our valley? What things are better now? What things are worse? What things are the same?

The various strands of the Heritage Project in Roundup culminated in a Community Heritage Day at the Musselshell County Fairgrounds, in which students presented their work to the public.

To print a final report for the year-end binder, click here.
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