Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189

July 26, 1995

Montana Heritage Project Supported by the Library of Congress

A teacher training workshop from July 31 to August 5, 1995, at the University of Montana in Missoula will launch a three-year project aimed at helping Montana's "next generation" assume responsibility for maintaining the state's cultural heritage. The Montana Heritage Project, a student and community education effort, will encourage Montana high school students to compare and contrast the community life of their state in past generations with community life today. The project is sponsored by the Library's American Folklife Center, in collaboration with the Center for the Book.

Nine Montana educational and cultural agencies will develop the project: the Office of Public Instruction, the project's administrative home base; the Commissioner of Higher Education; the University of Montana; Montana State University; the Montana Historical Society; the Montana State Library; the Montana Center for the Book; the Montana Arts Council; and the Montana Committee for the Humanities.

The Montana Heritage Project is funded by a generous grant from the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation. Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg, who initiated the project, are ranch owners in Montana, and Mr. Ortenberg is a member of both the Library's Madison Council and its Trust Fund Board. The project was announced on May 23 at the State Capitol in Helena by Montana Governor Marc Racicot and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Nancy Keenan. Alan Jabbour, director of the American Folklife Center, also spoke at the press conference.

The July 31-August 5 workshop, titled "The Next Generation: A Living Education for a Changing World," will instruct teachers from six communities (Broadus, Chester, Corvallis, Libby, Pryor, St. Ignatius) about the project's goals and prepare them to work with students who are studying the history and heritage of their communities. It will include instruction in the field and the classroom.

As an insight into Montana community life and culture in past generations, students will use materials in the Montana Historical Society, the Montana State Library, the university library systems, the Library of Congress, and their local libraries and museums. Another resource for the project will be the documentary photographs, tape recordings, and fieldnotes from the Montana Folklife Project, conducted in 1979 by the American Folklife Center in cooperation with the Montana Arts Council.

The Montana State Library and the Montana Center for the Book will develop reading lists and a core collection of appropriate publications for distribution to the local and school libraries of participating schools. To compare the historical record with cultural life today, students will be trained to interview and document members of their own communities, including some of the same people, families, and communities they encountered in their research.

Some of the broad questions the students will consider are: What has changed, and what remains the same, in the life of the various cultural communities that make up Montana? How has the environment and attitudes about it changed? Have life-styles changed in significant ways? Has the occupational culture of the community and state changed, and how does that affect the future? What are the state's cultural traditions and how are they faring? What did it mean in the past, and what does it mean today, to be a Montanan?

Student teams will seek to provide at least tentative answers in the form of products that can be shared with the communities where they conducted their investigations--exhibits, booklets, radio programs, literary maps, and public presentations, for example.

"This project offers an exceptional learning adventure for Montana students," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Nancy Keenan said when the Montana Heritage Project was announced. "They will use skills learned in the project to create products of lasting value that will help Montanas understand who we are, where we came from, and where we are going."

For information, contact Michael Umphrey, director, Montana Heritage Project, (406)745-3090.

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PR 95-107
ISSN 0731-3527

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