Partnership Makes Digitized Collections More Accessible

September 07, 2017

MISSOULA – Collections of some of Montana’s most unique historical books, photographs, letters and more will now be widely available online, thanks to a new partnership between the state’s universities and cultural heritage institutions.

In June 2017, the University of Montana, Montana State University, the Montana State Library and the Montana Historical Society partnered to form the Big Sky Country Digital Network, an online hub of digitized library and museum collections.

In addition to providing a way to search multiple collections of historical items from across the state, the network indexes information about those collections and submits it to the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), a nonprofit group that aggregates digital collections from America’s libraries, archives, museums and cultural heritage institutions.

“This is a significant partnership with other Montana educational and cultural heritage institutions to promote the Mansfield Library’s extensive digital collections,” said Beverly Edmond, UM interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.  “Through this online hub, the valuable digital collections will be easily accessible to our faculty, students and other audiences worldwide. I applaud the Mansfield Library’s leadership on this initiative.”

DPLA works with regional and state hubs such as the Big Sky Country Digital Network to organize metadata for the items in the hubs’ collections – information about information. DPLA also supports developing local knowledge of linked open data, data quality and standards, copyright and licensing, and other topics.

Digital collections from Montana, which include newspapers, photographs, books, maps, diaries, letters and other artifacts, will now be exhibited online alongside nationwide resources on the DPLA platform.

“We are thrilled with this statewide partnership network which takes our valuable and unique digital collections to DPLA, a national online platform,” said Shali Zhang, dean of libraries at UM. “Several digital collections, such as Mansfield’s Speeches and Interviews, Boone and Crockett Club Records, Bud Moore Photographs and Sound Recordings, Fort Missoula Alien Detention Camp Collection, The Natives of Montana Archival Project and others, have been heavily used. Joining the efforts with other Montana partners makes these digital collections easily accessible to all Montanans and worldwide audience.”

Among the thousands of new resources the Big Sky Country Digital Network makes available are:

  • Mansfield’s Speeches and Interviews at UM – Mike Mansfield represented Montana in the U.S. House (1942-52), Senate (1952-77) and was U.S. Ambassador to Japan (1977-1988). This digital collection from UM spans Mansfield’s career as a candidate, legislator and ambassador, and highlights his legacy of leadership in public service through his speeches and interviews drawn from the extensive Mansfield Papers housed in UM’s Mansfield Library.
  • The Ivan Doig Archive at MSU – A digital collection of the famed author’s notes, manuscripts, letters, photographs and more. The documents were entrusted to MSU by Doig’s widow, Carol, in September 2015, following Doig’s death earlier that year. Doig, a Montana native, was known for his writing, primarily set in Big Sky Country, which celebrates the landscape and people of the postwar West.

  • Glacier National Park Historical Photographs – These images from the Montana Historical Society’s Research Center capture the landscape and people who worked and played in the park in its early years. Work by notable photographers such as George Grant, Fred Kiser and T.J. Jileman appear in this collection.

  • Civil War Era Diaries and Correspondence Collection – The historical society’s collection of diaries and letters share the experience of new arrivals to Montana Territory during the waning years of the Civil War.

Visit the Big Sky Country Digital Network online at and the Digital Public Library of America at

Contact: Shali Zhang, UM libraries dean, 406-243-6800,