Geographic perspectives on state-directed heritage production in Twentieth-Century Montana
Briwa, Robert Merrill
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Heritage produces deeply entrenched understandings about places across a range of geographic scales. Heritage is a deliberate framing of identity, actively constructed to promote ties binding history to place. This research interrogates the intersections of heritage, landscape, and state government in twentieth-century Montana. It examines how selected Montana state institutions produced heritage. The Montana Department of Transportation (MDoT), Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP), and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) direct heritage production through numerous practices, including cartography (MDoT), state park management (FWP), and historic preservation (SHPO). This dissertation draws from conceptual frameworks of place identity and heritage and employs qualitative methods--principally archival research and document analysis--to examine how these state institutions produce Montana heritage. Between 1914 and 2000, the MDoT used its highway map program to anchor Montana heritage around five themes: territorial identity, mythic west, natural wealth, outdoor recreation, and hospitality. Montana's state park system, particularly Bannack State Park, demonstrates federal and local influences in evolving state visions of heritage at a Montana ghost town. National narratives centered on Euro-American westering experiences evolved to a more culturally inclusive heritage at Bannack. Montana's historic preservation movement under the direction of the SHPO shows a trend towards a decentralized planning model that increasingly emphasizes preservation outcomes grounded in regional and more inclusive perspectives. In Montana's urban landscapes, however, local contexts and generative forces weaken state-directed preservation. These case studies offer six common characteristics of state-directed heritage production in the American West. 1) States shape heritage production in a variety of ways and these diverse institutional drivers evolve over time. 2) State-directed heritage production reflects an evolving dynamic existing across institutional and geographic scales. 3) Key individuals matter in heritage production and they have the ability to shape long-term narratives of state-produced heritage. 4) Sufficient funding from state and federal sources consolidates states' abilities to produce heritage, while insufficient funding from state and federal sources weakens states' abilities to produce heritage. 5) The evolving content of heritage production reflects changing cultural values and related political mandates. 6) State-directed heritage in Montana relies on dispersed heritage governance.