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Evan Barrett of Highlands College Selected for Top Montana Historical Society Award


The Montana Historical Society (MHS) has honored Evan Barrett of Highlands College and Montana Tech with its highest award for his outstanding contribution to Montana history and heritage.

Barrett was awarded the MHS’s special Heritage Guardian Award, which is only presented under special circumstances, for a unique contribution to Montana history.  The award was last presented 2011.

Alfred Wiseman of Choteau and Nancy Watts of Lewistown were also honored by MHS with its annual 2016 Trustees Heritage Keeper Awards.    MHS Trustees President Bob Brown said:  “Our 15-member Board of Trustees from across the state take great honor in recognizing the important contributions of these three outstanding Montanans. The history of Montana has been enriched by their efforts and dedication to telling the stories of our great state.”

According to MHS, Barrett was closely involved in major events in Montana from 1965 to 1980, a period University of Montana Professor Emeritus Harry Fritz has called the second most important time period in Montana history.  It includes events like the growth of the environmental movement, the death of the Anaconda Company, the crafting of a new state Constitution, the rise of feminism and the reorganization of Montana’s executive branch of government.   According to the Historical Society, Barrett while working at Highlands College at Montana Tech, was determined to preserve the history of this pivotal time while those who lived it were still alive.  To do so he created the documentary series, “In the Crucible of Change: Montana’s Dramatic Period of Progressive Change, 1965-1980.”  The effort was supported by Montana Tech and Highlands College, along with grants from Humanities Montana, the Montana History Foundation, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Lee & Donna Metcalf Charitable Trust.

Montana Tech Chancellor Donald Blackketter noted this was a new area of research and scholarship at Tech.  “The experience, knowledge and skills Evan brought to Montana Tech allowed us to play a role in chronicling this important period in Montana’s history.  We are pleased that Montana Tech could have helped achieve this Montana history milestone.  We add our congratulations and recognition of Evan to those provided by MHS.”

Highlands College Dean John Garic said the series will remain important for future generations of researchers and historians: “This collection of valuable primary research - of significantly important Montana history – directly from the mouths of the people who were there - that’s what Evan has given us. The remarkable information that he has gathered in this series, will help generations of Montanans come to understand what that amazing period in Montana history was really like.”

Barrett is on-screen host and writer for the series – and for good reason: he worked closely with many of the historical figures featured from 1965 to 1980.

“The history-makers that were part of this series were an amazing group of people,” Barrett said. “I’m really honored to have had the opportunity to chronicle their efforts and humbled by the recognition the series has received.”

The series has aired more than 1,000 times on Montana over-the-air PBS, statewide and local cable channels in 59 communities across Montana, and is available via internet as transcripts and video on Montana Tech’s Digital Commons.  It features 43, hour-length discussions with more than 75 of the period’s history makers, including former members of the 1972 Constitutional Convention, office-holders, politicians, reporters and judges.   MHS said that Barrett’s personal political and governmental experience during the period gave him unique access to key historical participants and armed him with the questions that needed to be asked.   “With this award, we express our gratitude to Evan Barrett for illuminating this important period of history, preserving the voices and memories of its participants for future generations,” MHS Trustees wrote in making the award.

Among others, Barrett conducted first-hand interviews of major state political players, including former governors Ted Schwinden and Brian Schweitzer; Montana Congressman Pat Williams; 20-year state Senator and Con Con Delegate Dorothy Eck; and more than a dozen remaining delegates to the historical 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention.

“The entire group was a powerful collection of people and voices,” added Barrett.   The awards will be presented at the 43rd Annual MHS Montana History Conference Sept. 22 through 24 in Hamilton. Information on the conference to be held in conjunction with the 175th Anniversary of the founding of St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville became available at www.montanahistoricalsociety.org on July 5.   

For any further information about this issue or any issue pertaining to Montana Tech or Highlands College, please contact Amanda Badovinac at 406-496-4828 or Dr. John M. Garic at 406-496-3714.