A Narrative History of the Montana Heritage Project

Students research seditious aliens, patriots, and elk in Roundup

Tim Schaff
Tom Thackeray
Dale Alger

Roundup High School


The Heritage Project in Roundup is slowly, but surely, getting bigger. This year, there were four teachers that coordinated the efforts of forty-one students and twenty-nine community members.

In Tim Schaff’s English II class, students read English Creek by Ivan Doig and then used Sanborn maps, newspaper microfiche, photos, and interviews to produce a multi-media presentation that chronicled the history of Roundup from 1908–1945 called “Letters Home.” Students used the information they gathered to create composite characters that write to one another. One letter was read by a character on the screen, portrayed by a historical photo, while a student, live and in period costume, read the answer.

In Tim’s Local Legacies class and Tom Thackeray’s Research Writing class, students wrote research papers on a variety of topics. They read Joseph Kinsey Howard’s Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome and learned about primary documents and how to use them by completing exercises in The Progressive Years 1898–1917, a publication of the National Archives and Records Administration. They then visited the courthouse a few times to learn how to access the various records kept there. Finally, teams of students interviewed and photographed several community members.

Then they began writing.

The papers cover such diverse subjects as the historical and current elk population of the Bull Mountains and Snowy Mountains; the Bataan Death March; coal mining in the U.S. in general, and Musselshell County in particular; the history of a local homesteading family; the history of baseball in the county; a sensational murder; and a thirty-seven page paper on the U.S.A. Patriot Act, comparing that Act with the World War I Alien and Sedition Act. These papers are what earned a team from Roundup the opportunity to represent the Montana Heritage Project at the Library of Congress in May.

Students in Sherry Pertile’s Quilting II class studied buildings that existed in Roundup in 1910. They started by examining historical photos in the photo archives at the high school and then moved on to the Sanborn maps to try to locate the buildings and newspapers to document the uses of them. They finished their study by creating five wall hangings with photo blocks of the buildings.

High school librarian, Dale Alger, continues to be an invaluable member of the team. According to Tim Schaff, “His expertise in photography, research techniques, and technology are in constant use by the members of the Project.” Several teachers in Roundup have been overheard to say that they “have the best librarian in the state.”

In addition to the research and writing Roundup students did, they continued to copy, caption, and archive historical photos from the Musselshell Valley Historical Museum, which allows the public greater access to them while protecting the originals.

Another on-going effort that began just this year was the creation of a database for the local newspaper. Students have entered nearly 2,000 front-page articles from the years 1908–1920 in a searchable database which is also available to the public.

To print a final report for the year-end binder, click here.
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© 2003 Montana Heritage Project
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