A new exhibit at The University of Montana will use video, visuals, artifacts and sound to tell the story of the Irish in Montana. An opening reception for “From Rocky Shores to the Rocky Mountains: The Irish in Montana” will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, March 1, on the main floor of the Mike and Maureen Mansfield Library.
The exhibit is a collaboration of “The Gathering: Collected Oral Histories of the Irish in Montana,” the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives and the UM Irish Studies Program. It tells the story of Irish immigration westward to the lush and mineral-rich mountains and prairies of Montana and gives retrospective into the lives of the immigrants.
Along with archival items, “From Rocky Shores to the Rocky Mountains” will feature oral histories collected over the past two years by “The Gathering.” The Mansfield Library houses these interviews with more than 160 Montanans of Irish descent.
When one interviewee, Ann Loughlin of Missoula, held up a photo of herself standing in the Irish countryside of her ancestors, she describes herself as part of the landscape.
“I just feel like I’ve gone home,” Loughlin said in her oral history. “I’ve not ever experienced that phenomenon before.”
That connection to a rare and magical heritage resonates with other descendants of the Irish who left their native soil. Stories like Loughlin’s will be on display in “From Rocky Shores to the Rocky Mountains” from March 1 to mid-April on the main floor of the library. It is free and open to the public.
The exhibit debuted at the University College Cork in Ireland last summer and in Butte in January. It was produced with support from UM, the Irish Government Department of Foreign Affairs Emigrant Support Programme, Northwestern Energy, The Friends of the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, Humanities Montana and UCC.
For more information call UM Assistant Professor Bernadette Sweeney, research director of “The Gathering,” at 406-243-2998 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; call Bob O’Boyle, project director of “The Gathering,” at 406-531-3045; or call the Mansfield Library at 406-243-6800. More information about “The Gathering” is available online at http://www.cas.umt.edu/thegathering/.