Montana’s rural museums are vital to the state’s rural populations. Rural communities have unique histories that are embedded in the culture and context of broader regions. As such, rural museums foster community experience and history as meaningful and personal, while also nurturing regional identity and connection to local place. Many rural museums are located on Main Street, the hub of rural communities and fit the role of “Third Places,” or public places where people can gather and interact. These spaces are central to local democracy and a community’s social vitality. Rural museums often encapsulate both cultural and natural history collections, thereby providing a space to engage with the community’s geographic and demographic past, present and future. This presentation addresses museum social impact and how it can be applied in local communities throughout Montana to address well-being and vitality. This place-attentive strategy recognizes the value of physical place, the diversity of people within and connected to that place (both past and present), and frames place with power. Audiences will learn how rural museums can excel at deepening economic and educational impact and discover how museum social impact, an elusive and challenging dataset, can be measured in communities throughout Montana.
Sabre Moore grew up on her family’s sheep and cattle ranch outside Douglas, Wyoming and is the Executive Director of the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka, Montana. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies at Montana State University in 2023, her M.A. in Museum Studies & Nonprofit Management from Johns Hopkins University in 2016, and her B.A. in History from Montana State University in 2013. Her research focuses on museums and rural community vitality, and how power is exercised in practices of place. Sabre is the President of the Museums Association of Montana, Chair of Visit Southeast Montana, serves on the Montana Governor’s Tourism Advisory Council and is on the Board of Directors for Starry Skies Montana and Carter County Chamber of Commerce. She is also an EMT for Dahl Memorial Healthcare Ambulance and a Site Steward for Medicine Rocks State Park and the Bureau of Land Management in Carter County, Montana.