Time Travel: Photos Show One of Best Parts of ‘Old Montana’
When you think of Montana's history, your mind immediately jumps to ghost towns, and historic "Old West" locations like Bannack, or Virginia City.
But there's another part of Montana that doesn't get the attention it deserves. And while it's not as old as the gold camps, it stands as evidence of the pioneering efforts to secure the Treasure State's place in the 20th century; the collection of bridges, buildings, and even missile sites that dot our landscape.
While many of these historic pieces of construction are gradually vanishing, one Montana woman has spent the past 20 years documenting the state's fledging infrastructure, creating a photographic record that you can now see for the first time.
Above photo: Antelope Coulee Bridge, off south frontage road near Vaughn, Cascade County, reinforced concrete, 2004, archival digital print from scanned 4x5 negative, courtesy Montana Department of Transportation
Over years of work, Kristi Hager amassed over 600 high-quality images, initially to document utility and security infrastructure for the Historic American Buildings Survey, and the Historic America Engineering Record. That archive of images is kept at the Library of Congress.
An important historical record
The images are critical for researchers, and historic preservation as many of these historic bridges, buildings, and other infrastructure continue to succumb to time, whether or have been dismantled.
That's a shame because many of these landmarks were an important part of the Montana outdoor landscape. I can recall many bridges, like the Old Madison Bridge, which brought back memories of my family and countless adventures over the years.
Recently, fellow photographer Tom Ferris scanned some of Hagar's negatives and then enlarged them on archival prints.
Now you can see these stunning images
Starting this week, the Missoula Art Museum is presenting 28 of Hager's photos in an exhibition entitled "For the Record: Photographing Montana's Historic Bridges, Powerhouses and Missile Sites Inside and Out."
MAM organized the exhibition, which I'm told will be in Missoula until mid-May. Then it will travel through the Montana Art Gallery Directors Association, with stops at Explore the Arts in Hamilton, Holter Museum of Art in Helena, and MonDak Heritage Center in Sidney through 2025. Funding for the project was provided by the Montana History Foundation.
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