Old Montana State Prison: More Than a Museum; Punishment and Incarceration from the Early Days of the Montana Territory to Present Day

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Southern New Hampshire University
This project explores the need for a deeper look into the experiences during the more than one hundred years of operation of the Old Montana State Prison. The main component of the project has cultivated an online, interactive exhibit that details life in the Montana Territory, the Gold Rush, and the Vigilante Justice that followed. Also detailed is the history of the institution, including a treasured inmate, the Riot of 1959, and women’s experiences in prison. This analysis is done through a summary of the current scholarship on the Old Montana State Prison, incarceration in the broader US prison system, and the influences of the past on the current Montana State Prison facility. Being that the major interpretational trends tend to focus on a singular topic and are often narratives, rather than individual interpretations, the following will address the need for a deeper look at the history involved. Additionally, the importance of using both a social and cultural lens in the methodology is explained, as social interactions and cultural groups are vital to the understanding of human nature and how that relates to incarceration. The sources and repositories used to accomplish this span from local sources to sources that address the topic in a national sense and even beyond. Books from those who experienced life at the Old Montana State Prison and around the local area were integral to uncovering the humanistic aspect of incarceration. The Montana Historical Society was a major contributor to the documents and items showcased in the accompanying online exhibit. Other sources include modern narratives of the state of the United State Prison System today, with a case study of sorts in a private Louisiana prison, to news articles that correspond to the present issues faced at the current Montana State Prison Facility.