Montana State University

Montana universities, institutions partner to make state’s digitized library and museum collections more accessible

September 1, 2017 -- From MSU News Service

A new collaboration between Montana State and institutions across Montana called the Big Sky Country Digital Network is making the state’s historical documents, books, letters and other digitized artifacts more widely available online, such as this image of famed Montana author Ivan Doig taken in Virginia City in 1987 and which is housed at the MSU Library.    High-Res available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN — Collections of some of Montana’s most unique historical books, photographs, letters and more will now be widely available online, thanks to a new partnership between the state’s universities and cultural heritage institutions.

In June, Montana State University, the University of Montana, the Montana State Library and the Montana Historical Society partnered to form the Big Sky Country Digital Network, an online hub of digitized library and museum collections.

In addition to providing a way to search multiple collections of historical items from across the state, the network indexes information about those collections and submits it to the Digital Public Library of America, a nonprofit group that aggregates digital collections from America’s libraries, archives, museums and cultural heritage institutions.

“This is an exciting development,” said Kenning Arlitsch, dean of the MSU Library. “The BSCDN network brings together what once may have been hard-to-find resources from across the state and creates more points of access. The collections will also be harvested by search engines like Google.”

The DPLA works with hubs such as the Big Sky Country Digital Network to organize metadata for the items in the hubs’ collections — information about information, so to speak.

Having that metadata, and having it organized, makes it easy for the public to search and find what they’re after — or to find things they didn’t know existed, Arlitsch said. Plus, opportunities exist for computer and web programmers to use that information to create new digital scholarship applications and interfaces, he added.

And, the DPLA also supports developing local knowledge of linked, open data; data quality and standards; copyright and licensing; and other topics.

Collections from Montana, which include newspapers, photographs, books, maps, diaries and letters, will now be exhibited online alongside nationwide resources on the DPLA website.

“This statewide partnership supports a common mission: engaging Montanans with the information curated by our state’s universities, libraries and cultural institutions,” Arlitsch said. “It makes Montana’s history more accessible to all Montanans.”

Among the thousands of new resources the Big Sky Country Digital Network makes available are:

  • The Ivan Doig Archive at MSU: A digital collection of the famed author’s notes, manuscripts, letters, photographs and more. The documents were entrusted to MSU by Doig’s widow, Carol, in September 2015, following Doig’s death earlier that year. Doig, a Montana native, was known for his writing, primarily set in Montana, that celebrates the landscape and people of the post-war West.
  • Glacier National Park Historical Photographs: These images from the Montana Historical Society’s Research Center capture the landscape and people who worked and played in the park in its early years. Work by notable photographers such as George Grant, Fred Kiser and T.J. Hileman appear in this collection.
  • Mansfield’s Speeches and Interviews at UMMike Mansfield represented Montana in the U.S. House from 1942 to 1952 and the Senate from 1952 to 1977; and he was Ambassador to Japan from 1977 to 1988. This digital collection from the University of Montana spans Mansfield's career as a candidate, legislator and ambassador and highlights his legacy of leadership in public service through his speeches and interviews drawn from the extensive Mansfield Papers housed in the UM Mansfield Library.
  • Civil War Era Diaries and Correspondence Collection: Also available is the historical society’s collection of diaries and letters sharing the experience of new arrivals to Montana Territory during the waning years of the Civil War.

Visit the Big Sky Country Digital Network online at and the Digital Public Library of America at

Contact: Kenning Arlitsch, MSU Library dean, 406-994-6978 or

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