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Grant number like: PY-258638-18

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Montana Historical Society (Helena, MT 59601-4514)
Molly Kruckenberg (Project Director: May 2017 to March 2021)

Common Heritage
Preservation and Access

[Grant products]

$12,000 (approved)
$8,466 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2018 – 6/30/2019

Drill Rigs and Grain Silos: Harvesting Food History to Capture the Culture of a Community in Change

Two digitization days and a public lecture aiming to document local history and culture through foodways in Richland and Roosevelt counties in Montana. The project would focus on documenting foodways through family recipes, cookbooks, photographs of celebrations, picnics and fairs, records of homemaker clubs, and artifacts related to food preservation and preparation. Outreach events would explore local history and cultural influence, using such foodways as a lens to better understand local history and immigration. The effort to collect local history materials comes amidst the social and economic changes brought by the current boom in natural gas. The counties are also home to land that the Assiniboine consider their ancestral home, and nineteenth-century waves of immigration saw arrivals from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia, and Germany. Contributed items would complement existing collections of Montana cookbooks already digitized by the Montana Historical Society, which include few materials from these rural areas of the state. The project would, with permission, make digitized items accessible via Montana Memory, the state’s digital library portal.

Richland and Roosevelt counties in eastern Montana have long been subject to a boom and bust cycle, from homesteading to oil. The Baaken oil field spills into this rural area and the effects of the boom have brought profound changes. As communities here struggle with change, surviving food traditions provide continuity. Through a partnership of heritage institutions and Extension offices, this project will gather digital reproductions of food-related items that tell the history of the foodways of the area, with the digitized materials made available on the Montana Memory Project. Using those materials Montana food historians will present a public program that will interpret Montana food history and the food customs specific to eastern Montana. The program will improve the community’s understanding of their heritage by demonstrating the centrality of food to traditions and examining the role of food as a benchmark during times of upheaval and in bringing people together.