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Montana universities, institutions partner to make state’s digitized library and museum collections more accessible

Friday, September 1, 2017/Categories: Montana State Library/Tags: Montana university system , libraries , Montana Historical Society , Montana State Library Commission

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                    Contact:          Jennie Stapp  

September 1, 2017                                                                            (406) 444-3116

Montana universities, institutions partner to make state’s digitized library and museum collections more accessible

HELENA — Collections of some of Montana’s most unique historical books, photographs, letters and more will now be widely available online, thanks to a new partnership between the state’s universities and cultural heritage institutions.

In June, Montana State University, the University of Montana, the Montana State Library and the Montana Historical Society partnered to form the Big Sky Country Digital Network, an online hub of digitized library and museum collections.

Forming the Big Sky Country Digital Network, is the next evolutionary step in a partnership that formed nearly fifteen years ago when these and other Montana libraries and museums formed the Montana Memory Project (

“At the time we founded the Montana Memory Project, we described it as Montana’s acting of remembering,” said Jennie Stapp, Montana State Librarian. “The deep pride we feel about our history and culture is well represented in the collections of digital content we make available.” 

In addition to providing a way to search multiple collections of historical items from across the state (, the network indexes information about those collections and submits it to the Digital Public Library of America (, a nonprofit group that aggregates digital collections from  America’s libraries, archives, museums and cultural heritage institutions.

“This is an exciting development,” said Kenning Arlitsch, dean of the MSU Library. “The BSCDN network brings together what once may have been hard-to-find resources from across the state and creates more points of access. The collections will also be harvested by search engines like Google.”

“People around the country and the world care about Montana and they love to explore connections to our great state,” Stapp said.  “By forming the BSCDN, and by joining the Digital Public Library of America, we are ensuring that they have the information they need to connect to us at their fingertips.”

The DPLA works with hubs such as the Big Sky Country Digital Network to organize metadata for the items in the hubs’ collections — information about information, so to speak.

Collections from Montana, which include newspapers, photographs, books, maps, diaries and letters, will now  be exhibited online alongside nationwide resources on the DPLA website.

“This statewide partnership supports a common mission: engaging Montanans with the information curated by our state’s universities, libraries and cultural institutions,” Arlitsch said. “It makes Montana’s history more accessible to all Montanans.”

Among the thousands of new resources the Big Sky Country Digital Network makes available are:

  • The Ivan Doig Archive at MSU: A digital collection of the famed author’s notes, manuscripts, letters, photographs and more. The documents were entrusted to MSU by Doig’s widow, Carol, in Sept. 2015, following Doig’s death earlier that year. Doig, a Montana native, was known for his writing, primarily set in Montana, that celebrates the landscape and people of the post-war West.
  • Glacier National Park Historical Photographs — These images from the Montana Historical Society’s Research Center capture the landscape and people who worked and played in the park in its early years. Work by notable photographers such as George Grant, Fred Kiser and T.J. Jileman appear in this collection.
  • Civil War Era Diaries and Correspondence Collection — Also available is the historical society’s collection of diaries and letters sharing the experience of new arrivals to Montana Territory during the waning years of the Civil War.
  • Mansfield’s Speeches and Interviews at UM  – Mike Mansfield represented Montana in the U.S. House (1942-1952) and Senate (1952-1977), and was Ambassador to Japan (1977-1988).  This digital collection from the University of Montana (UM) spans Mansfield's career as a candidate, legislator, and ambassador, and highlights his legacy of leadership in public service through his speeches and interviews drawn from the extensive Mansfield Papers housed in the UM Mansfield Library.


Visit the Big Sky Country Digital Network online at and the Digital Public Library of America at


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