BIG SKY SCHOOLHOUSE PROJECT GETS NATIONAL AWARD

On June 3, the MPA, the Montana History Foundation (MHF), and author Charlotte Caldwell were the recipients of the Vernacular Architecture Forum’s Award for Advocacy, honoring 6 years of work to document and preserve Montana's one- and two-room schoolhouses. MPA’s Director Chere Jiusto, Outreach and Education Director Christine Brown, and schoolhouse survey intern Madeline Westrom traveled to Salt Lake City to accept the award.

Sparked by publication of Ms. Caldwell’s stunning book, Visions and Voices: Montana’s One-Room Schoolhouses, our partnership launched a grant program for schoolhouse preservation through the MHF, and MPA’s county-by-county inventory of every standing schoolhouse remaining in Montana. To date we have raised funds to support two dozen schoolhouse preservation projects statewide, and our inventory has already recorded over 200 standing schoolhouses in 16 counties. With 40 counties still to go, our work is far from done. Still, we hope our powerful advocacy effort will be a preservation success story and a model for others to follow.

Our heartfelt thanks go to Amy Sullivan, former Director of the MHF who helped us start this herculean effort; student interns Veronica Sales, Sherry Teal, Dan Rhode, and Madeline Westrom for their fieldwork and data crunching; volunteers Jim Greene and Martha Vogt who have driven thousands of miles to find schoolhouses; and our very important funders Charlene Porsild and the MHF, the Montana Land Title Foundation, the Montana Cultural & Aesthetic Trust Fund, and Humanities Montana. In addition, many thanks to all the local people and schoolhouse owners who have graciously given directions, shared stories, and allowed us to document their properties.

The Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF) is the premier organization in North America dedicated to the appreciation and study of ordinary buildings and landscapes. Established in 1979, VAF is composed of scholars from many fields, including history, architectural history, geography, anthropology, sociology, landscape history, historic preservation, and material culture studies. All receiving this award are deeply honored to be recognized by this group of individuals who shine the light on the meaning and importance of vernacular places in our world.