HELENA- This week the Montana Historical Society unveils its latest exhibit. Titled ‘Times of Trouble, Times of Change: Montana and the Great War’ – it takes a closer look at what was happening on the home front during World War One. Experiencing the exhibit begins with a walk down a corridor that puts the historical events of the time on a visual timeline.
“That situates what was happening in Montana with what was happening on the national stage and what was happening on the international stage,” explains Curator of History Maggie Ordon.
Making your way inside the exhibit itself, you’ll find a more personal look at the impact of the war on Montana. That includes a breakdown of where Montanans were from at that time.
“The census shows that 60% of Montanans were either immigrants or children of immigrants,” says Ordon. “So it was an extremely diverse population with people all over the world coming to Montana in addition to the many tribes that were already here and continuing to make their livelihood here.”
That diverse population created troubles on the homefront, as well, with some Montanans feeling torn in allegiance and others leary of their neighbors’ allegiance. But there was no shortage of Montanans ready to take up the cause.
“We had one of the highest rates of enlistment and that included having one of the highest rates of men who volunteered to serve in the war. So there were many Montanans who were ready to go and fight for their country,” says Ordon.
For those who stayed at home, farming played an important role in the war cause, as did mining. During the same time period, however, the tragedy of the times was multiplied.
“Just a few months after the U.S. entered the war, in June of 1917, there was the Speculator Mine disaster, which led to the loss of nearly 170 miners,” Ordon says.
‘Times of Trouble, Times of Change’ walks visitors through all of these aspects of life in Montana during wartime, and even takes them over to the battlefront, with an upclose look at trench warfare – helping to ensure history is not forgotten as we remember the 100 year anniversary of the U.S. entering World War One.
The exhibit opens Thursday night with a reception from 5:00 to 7:00 and it will be on display through the summer of 2019.
-Melissa Jensen reporting for MTN News