Golden Anniversary Letter, December

Corby Skinner

Photo credit: Anna Paige

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As Humanities Montana celebrates our 50th anniversary, we have been honored to hear from previous board members and staff and our friends from throughout the state. This month, Corby Skinner, a past Humanities Montana board member and chair and a recipient of a Governor’s Humanities Award, shares his reflections on 50 years of Humanities Montana.

The word has always been a problem: Unfortunately, most people associate “humanities” with Socrates, Plato, Latin text, German philosophers, archeology, art history; all old stuff. The board and staff of the Montana Committee for the Humanities, now Humanities Montana, have always struggled with communicating the concept. How do we make the word meaningful to people other than academicians and retired folk with a modicum of interest in…old stuff?

The good news: 50 years of practice has accomplished a great deal. There has been wonderful progress with more engaging programs, serving a more diverse audience throughout Montana. I encourage everyone to visit to scroll through the rich offerings for libraries, schools, communities, and individuals.

Although I consider myself a well-read, college-educated man, the experiences with humanities programs have opened my eyes to fresh perspectives:

  • Despite what I was taught, women were an important part of Montana history.
  • Not all Montana politicians had the welfare of the people as a top priority.
  • Farmers and ranchers read literature, sometimes even poetry.
  • Native Americans are more than historical figures.
  • Gay, lesbian, and two-spirited people lived before 1972.
  • Buffalo and wolf re-introduction, wilderness protection, agriculture, water rights, the environment, and other hot topics are better for discussion than what we commonly see expressed on bumper stickers.
  • Butte certainly has a colorful history, but so does Havre, Miles City, Fort Benton, and hundreds of other small towns across the state.
  • Original source material — letters, journals, photos, paintings, and artifacts — can tell us more about our history than most schoolbooks.
  • Ah, there is so much more to explore!

I have always been an advocate and active participant in the arts, literature, theater, music, and the humanities. Montana is a wonderful state, but it is a large, geographically isolated state, which makes cultural opportunities all the more challenging. Humanities Montana is helping bridge that divide.

Meaningful conversations about our history and the greater world are critical for a clearer perspective on our own personal lives. It’s a noble effort and a worthy investment. Please join me in celebrating our past and inspiring our future. Support the humanities because there is still much to learn and a whole lot more to talk about.


Corby Skinner