Letter from the Director
“Can the humanist be brought together with the Montana public to create a dialogue on contemporary social issues? This is the challenge and the opportunity facing the Montana Committee for the Humanities.”
—1972 grant application to the National Endowment for the Humanities
In 2022, Humanities Montana will celebrate our 50th anniversary! Last week, some of us from the Humanities Montana office visited the Archives and Special Collections of the Mansfield Library at the University of Montana to look through the historical documents of Humanities Montana, originally called the “Montana Committee for the Humanities.”
The committee was first organized in 1972, and members traveled across the state to learn how the humanities could serve the public good in Montana. The committee identified the following concerns and wrote about them in their original application for National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funding:
- How can the committee ensure the humanities are reaching eastern Montana and rural communities?
- How can the humanities ameliorate a sense of alienation and loss in a changing Montana?
- What can the humanities do to address racial discrepancies in the state?
- Can the humanities bridge the rural and urban divide?
- How can the humanities address the conflict between industry and the protection of the state’s natural resources?
Essential questions like these capture the big ideas and core understandings of who we are as Montanans. Fifty years of facilitating dialogue around these enduring topics has led to new understandings, and, indeed, even more questions. In fact, the questions addressed by the original Montana Committee for the Humanities are still central to the work of Humanities Montana. Our Why It Matters virtual panels in early 2021 addressed several of these topics, such as “Our Rural/Urban Political Divide” and “The Native Vote in Montana.” Our Montana Conversations speakers also bring a humanities lens to understanding the current conditions of Montana life, such as Lailani Upham’s program, “Connecting to Land Through a Tribal Lens” and Julie Edwards’s “Taking Control of Your Information Environment.”
Starting in January 2022, our monthly newsletter will bring you snapshots from these early documents in our archives. Throughout 2022, you’ll have opportunities to reminisce and celebrate with us as we mark 50 years of promoting the humanities in Montana. In the meantime, we invite you to learn more about Humanities Montana’s history on our detailed timeline.
Randi Lynn Tanglen, Ph.D.