HELENA – Montana’s Historical Society is filled with thousands of materials that speak to the people, places and events that make up the state’s history.

“Sign in at the reference desk – and here is where we’re going to ask for your identification and then we’re going to want to know about your project,” says Reference Historian Zoe Ann Stoltz.

Stepping through the doors, you’ll be greeted by someone who can get you started on the right path.

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“Sometimes I’ll say it takes us awhile. If they’ve got a really unusual request, or something original that we’ve not looked at before. It may take some time, but we’re going to do our best,” says Stoltz.

Once you’ve signed in and filled out the patron registration form, you can do some work on your own, starting with the vertical files, which are arranged by topic.

Stoltz says you’ll find “a little bit of everything … old newspapers files and more recent.”

Our search of Montana mining magnate Thomas Cruse found those items in his vertical file, as well as a detailed list of his possessions at the time of his death.

Speaking of which, searching obituaries can also be an effective place to start.

“We’ll click on the death date here. Thomas Cruse, December 20th, 1914, and an obituary is often a really good first place to start,” says Stoltz. “Newspaper research is often the closest we can get to a time machine.”

Once the historians have a chance to research your topic, you’ll hopefully get a list of more materials to look through that are held in storage in the secure levels of the historical society.

Boxes upon boxes of documents are held within boxes that line the shelves of those secure levels… along with books, maps and more than 15,000 reels of Montana newspapers dating back to 1864 – that can all help you get the information you seek.

Click here for a direct link to the research center, put in your query and see what you find!