About

IMG_0588 A cold day at Big Hole Pass May 2012

Hi, I’m Carroll Van West and I have been documenting the Montana landscape since the early 1980s.  In 1984-1985, I undertook a major project for the State Historic Preservation Office at the Montana Historical Society to travel the state and to develop some sort of inventory of places, both known and unknown, that should be considered in the state historic preservation plan.  Beginning in February 1984 I went to every community in Montana, logging over 25,000 of traveling over the next four months.  I took over 3,000 black and white images and a much smaller number (about 300) color slides of significant landscapes and historic sites. During the travel I also had many meetings, both formal and informal, with Montanans and we talked about history and why it mattered.

The black and white images are now part of the collections of the Montana Historical Society in Helena.  The planning document was finished in 1985 and then in 1986 the Montana Historical Society Press published A Traveler’s Companion to Montana History, which interpreted all of the fieldwork within the context of the state’s history.

In 2007, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Montana Preservation Alliance, and Senator Lynda Moss began to urge me to return, and to develop a new plan, more focused on heritage development, and to record the changes the state’s heritage assets had experienced in the years since the mammoth survey of 1984-1985.  Finally in 2011-12, I agreed to take on the project, with fieldwork in the late spring of 2012, in the early summer of 2013, and then in the winter of 2013-2014.

 

4 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi – thoroughly enjoyed your website, but I think you need to change a spelling. “Dobson” in Phillips County is really Dodson, with a second “d.” I used to live not far from there 50+ years ago.

  2. Dr. Van West,

    This blog sets the gold standard for historical data germane to the whistlestop towns situated on north central Montana’s Hi-Line, and I would like to thank you for your work.
    I am a photographer living in the Bitterroot Valley, and produce photo documentaries and essays for a variety of magazines. My travels with camera and journal cover a lot of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.

    Recently, just prior to the current Arctic Blast which has enveloped us, I spent six days driving back and forth along the Hi-Line between Shelby and Malta, chronicling the status quo of many of the same towns you cover in your excellent blog piece. There is, as you know, an ongoing decline readily apparent and to varying degrees in most of these towns,—notable exceptions being the more easterly locations proximal to the Bakken Boom. My goal with this piece was primarily to appear in print in the January edition of Extraordinary Vision magazine. I was to appear therein as one of several “featured” photographers. I have since had misgivings about this venue, and have cancelled my submission to EV.

    What I really wanted to say is how much I value the work you have conducted, and often rely upon specific data from your blog. I was hoping to ask you for more info about the Chinook Hotel, as a paucity of details can be found online. But since I have tabled my publication for the time being, this and other queries are made moot.

    Thanks again for canvassing the back roads of Big Sky Country, and doing our homework for us! I think you would be a fascinating individual to sit down with over lunch, and just talk “Montana”! Keep up the scintillating endeavors.

  3. Just wanted to thank you for a great peek into the part of Montana I had never seen before. Thank you so much for investing your time and energy into it.

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