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Friends of the Museum Group Forms


July 22, 2020

There’s a new group in town! The Friends of the Museum is a volunteer group that will assist with Blaine County Museum outreach, fundraising, event organizing, and other projects.

Museum Director Samantha French conducted three informational sessions last week at the museum in Chinook to introduce the idea and to generate enthusiasm for history. “We welcome diverse age groups and backgrounds, so consider joining us for future meetings,” French said.

“Volunteer projects can range from outreach to assisting with cataloging the collection or performing research. But I am very open to suggestions for projects if anyone else has their own ideas,” she added.

Three informational sessions were held last Thursday and Friday at 6:30 p.m. and another on Saturday, July 18 at 5:00 p.m. These sessions shared ways that community members can get involved at the museum. There was no obligation to join or to step into a role for those who attended the informational sessions. French simply explained how people can help, how the friends group will be organized, and what is currently happening at the museum.

French expressed pleasure about the size of Thursday’s turn-out of six people. “I wasn’t sure how many I would get, so this is very encouraging.”

Some of the topics discussed were ways to plan for annual holiday events with a historical angle or to piggy-back on community celebrations and gatherings like the Sugarbeet Festival, Blaine County Fair, and Harlem Seed Show. “This is your museum,” French told those who attended the informational sessions. “It will become a reflection of those who are involved. The more perspectives we get, the more diverse the museum will be.”

Beyond adding diversity or working a table at any annual events, a pool of volunteers is important to perform future outreach, to assist with cataloging, or to sit at the front desk of the museum so that the director is free to work in the basement with the archives.

“Anything given to the museum in the late 70’s through 2008 needs to be cataloged,” French explained. “Having volunteers to shadow me or to simply learn that software would be a huge benefit.”

In order to reflect all of the communities in Blaine County, French hopes to tap the skills and knowledge that exist in the various pockets of our expansive region.

She has additional plans to increase the museum’s presence in the county’s numerous communities. French described a Walking Tour of each community as a place to start. Such a project would involve researching the historic buildings and any past happenings that are tied to location and then designing a brochure or an app to encourage self-guided tours with a historical flavor.

“The Montana History Foundation has funds to support the development of walking tours,” French said. “I would also like to involve the high school students on the tech as well as the research side of such a project.”

Another plan to give the museum a presence in more places is the notion of pop-up exhibits. “I’m hoping that someone might donate a trailer to display a rotating and travelling exhibit of the Allison Collection, for example. That way we could not only celebrate this extraordinary collection of portraits, places, and events relating to Blaine County, ranging in date from the 1920s–1960s, but identify some of those we’re uncertain about,” French expressed.

“Charlie Russell’s connection to Blaine County is one more idea for a pop-up exhibit. We could promote what we have, and since his name is so well-known, that might generate more tourism, too.”

Regarding the next steps, French envisions the structure of the Friends of the Museum group as having one or two meetings a month, with the first formal meeting coming next month. She also considers an Executive Board with all of the typical officers an essential element.

“All of these details would have to be approved by the Museum Board, but I’d like to see a liaison from Friends sit on the Museum Board, and vice versa. Such a system not only gives representation and structure, but adds to communication and organization,” French stated.

French emphasized that anyone is welcome to join the Friends of the Museum group, whether he or she attended a session last week or not. She urges interested persons to call the museum at 357-2590 or to stop-in at 501 Indiana Street in Chinook during the coming weeks to share their ideas or projects.


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