Montana history deserves a home

Print Article

What price does one put on history?

Right now Montana lawmakers are wrestling with that question, specifically as it relates to providing partial funding for a proposed $44.3 million renovation and expansion of the Montana Historical Society museum in Helena.

As the keepers of the stateís precious cultural artifacts, the Historical Society has been asking legislators for the last seven legislative sessions to consider passing a bill that would allow for bonding authority or another way of paying for what would be called the Montana Heritage Center.

Currently, historic collections stored in the centerís leaky basement are at risk, Historical Society Director Bruce Whittenberg pointed out during a recent visit with the Inter Lakeís editorial board. Space is at a premium in the aging facility, too. As much as 90 percent of the state artifacts are not on display.

A new building would add 65,604 square feet to the existing 93,252 square feet. The new facility would include museum exhibits, educational space and event center, outdoor courtyard and amphitheater, as well as appropriate storage for the museumís collection. The renovation of the current facility, the 1950 Veterans and ≠Pioneers Memorial Building, would expand the research center and library, ≠double the size of the C.M. Russell Gallery and add much-needed classrooms for educational programs.

A Billings lawmaker proposed a bill ó thankfully that piece of legislation has been tabled and is probably dead ó that would require the Historical Society trustees to sell off enough historic artifacts to pay for the expansion of the Montana Heritage Center. As Whittenberg correctly pointed out, the society is the steward of the stateís collections, not a broker or dealer willing to peddle the stateís prized possession to the highest bidder.

There again, what price do we put on history?

A bill sponsored by Sen. Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena, seems to offer the best bet weíve heard to date to generate the money needed for the project. Her bill would provide partial funding (the Historical Society is raising $10 million privately) by raising the state bed tax one-half of 1 percent for 10 years. It would also create a grant program for other museums and historic buildings across Montana.

When tourism promoters and lodging representatives criticized the bill, saying it needs to do more to promote tourism in Montana, Cohenour offered amendments that would raise the bed tax by 1 percent instead of 0.5 percent and would limit the Heritage Center funding and grant program to five instead of 10 years. It further would make the additional 1 percent tax permanent, with all revenue going to state tourism promotion after five years.

Last week the bill was tabled in the House Appropriations Committee, but we hope itís resurrected for further consideration of amendments that make it seem doable.

Yes, Cohenourís proposal is an extra tax, but since visitors would pay the lionís share of the additional bed tax the burden would be minimal to Montana citizens. The lodging industry and other state groups support the amended bill.

Time and tide wait for no man, and they certainly donít wait for historic treasures that could be ruined in a leaking, aging building. History is precious. We hope our legislators realize that.

Print Article

Read More Editorial

Support ALERT and save lives

April 23, 2017 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Every year around this time the Flathead Valley turns its attention to the ALERT air ambulance service, which stages its annual fundraising banquet in April. The event ó planned April 29 at the Flath...

Comments

Read More

About those extra mail-in ballots? Donít try to vote with them

April 22, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Daily Inter Lake Carl Rieckmann, a former Daily Inter Lake reporter and editor from the 1980s, who is now retired and recently returned to the Flathead, contacted me to let me know he was puzzled by a discovery he ma...

Comments

Read More

Election Ďfuní just getting started

April 21, 2017 at 8:40 am | Daily Inter Lake It was just over a week ago that Rob Quist reported he had raised $900,000 in his race against Greg Gianforte for Montanaís lone seat in the U.S. House. A few days later Gianforte reported he had rai...

Comments

Read More

Montana history deserves a home

April 16, 2017 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake What price does one put on history? Right now Montana lawmakers are wrestling with that question, specifically as it relates to providing partial funding for a proposed $44.3 million renovation and ...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

News: (406) 837-5131
Advertising: 406-758-4410
Bigfork Eagle
c/o Daily Inter Lake
PO Box 7610
Kalispell, MT 59904

©2017 Bigfork Eagle Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X