HELENA – The research center at the Montana Historical Society houses hundreds of thousands of books, letters, photographs, maps, newspapers, legislative records, films… the list goes on and on.

They’ve been collecting documentation of Montana’s history since 1865.

“The historical society, which has been around since the first territorial legislative session, has been collecting since then, Montana’s stories,” says Reference Historian Zoe Ann Stoltz.

Story continues below

For many folks in this digital age, the internet is often the first place they go to for answers to their questions.

But Stoltz says not so fast.

“They have been brainwashed into believing everything is online, when in reality very little is online. Especially when you start talking about primary documents, historical documents. Getting things online is incredibly expensive, time consuming process. Because you just don’t take a picture. You have to have special software to make it searchable. There’s no sense putting something online if you can’t search it.”

Stoltz says online is a good place to start, though. You’ll get some bits and pieces, but to get a broader picture you’ll want to come to the research center.

“You finish your research in your local library, your local museum or at the Montana Historical Society Research Center,” says Stoltz. “All you have to do is get on to our catalog and put in a topic and you’re going to see what is available here on site.”