Walk this way to know Kalispell

Years in the planning, the Northwest Montana History Museum launches its long-awaited walking tour in early June. Our Downtown Kalispell Walking Tour: The Iron Horse Snorted in the Garden of Eden runs weekly at 10 a.m. Mondays from June 5 to Sept. 25. Private tours also are available.

The well-researched, high-quality walking tour shows how Kalispell evolved into the cultural, economic, and transportation hub of Northwest Montana’s unique Flathead Valley. The approximate two-hour, level, and ADA-accessible tour covers about one mile and makes more than two dozen stops amid 30-plus highlighted buildings that tell the story of Kalispell’s history and people. 

Along the way walkers learn about architectural styles and modern reuse as well as prominent citizens and early settlers, how a bison herd could buy a city block, and where to spot ghost signs.

All walks begin and end at the Northwest Montana History Museum, 124 Second Ave. East, Kalispell, MT 59901.

Recommended for ages 10+

Museum admission is included with a ticket to the walking tour.

We look forward to walking with you!

Please visit for ticket and walk policies. Online ticket sales end a half-hour before the walk begins. Tickets also are available at the museum or by calling 406-756-8381, option 5.

A signed waiver is required to participate in the tour, provided on-site.

This program is sponsored in part by the Foundation for Montana History and researched and organized by staff and volunteers of the Northwest Montana History Museum. Proceeds benefit the Northwest Montana History Museum and its preservation and presentation of regional history.

Buster Keaton busts out the detective work in “Sherlock, Jr.”

Movie Night at the Museum for May goes silent with Buster Keaton’s 1924 comedy film classic Sherlock, Jr. Considered by critics to be one of Keaton’s best, the film also features Kathryn McGuire, Joe Keaton, and Ward Crane. The movie screens 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 23.

Keaton plays a movie theater projectionist and janitor who dreams of being a world-famous detective who wins the beautiful girl. This film, which was the first film solely directed by Keaton, is complete with Keaton’s trademark deadpan physical comedy, special effects and stunts as he makes fun of all detective films.

The American Film Institute has recognized Sherlock, Jr. by adding it to its list of the greatest film comedies of all time.

Admission and popcorn are free, but donations are gladly accepted. Soda pop, water, beer and wine are available for purchase. Seating is provided, but viewers are welcome to bring their own cushions or seating.

The Northwest Montana History Museum brings the past alive through exhibits, artifacts, educational programs, and events. Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at 124 Second Ave. East, Kalispell. For information call 406-756-8381.

Save the date: Art opening Friday, June 9, for Kathleen Frank

Painter, printmaker and woodcarver Kathleen Frank hiked Montana for weeks last summer and then holed up in her studio making paintings of what she saw.

Her colorful large-scale works depict historic sites of western Montana, from St. Mary Lake to the Bitterroot Valley. The works will hang in one of the museum’s two temporary galleries starting next month (June), following on Jeff Corwin’s landscape photography.

Frank’s introduction to Montana was about 20 years ago on a trip to a horse ranch, where she and others spent time setting up teepees, sleeping outside and hiking. She recalls sitting around the campfire in the evening listening to stories told by the Blackfeet.

Between her first trip to Montana and her more recent one, Frank has ventured widely, usually in the great outdoors. Her landscapes tend to focus on the American Southwest, where she travels multiple times throughout the year to hike and take photos of the views for her artwork.

Opening reception 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 9, 2023, free admission
Show runs through October 2023
Northwest Montana History Museum, 124 2nd Ave. E., Kalispell, MT 59901; 406-756-8381;

Movie Night founder makes a cameo appearance

“Touch of Evil,” Orson Welles’ classic 1958 film starring Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and Welles himself, screens for this month’s edition of Movie Night at the Museum at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 25.

Former museum executive director Gil Jordan steps in to host movie night in Jacob Thomas’s absence this month. Jordan founded the Movie Night at the Museum series years ago.

Other than that, it’s Movie Night as usual! Free admission and popcorn, fun people, drinks for purchase, and a classic movie — all a great reason to get out of the house and get into the museum.

“Tenacious Beasts” have much to teach

That’s the gist of environmental philosopher Christopher Preston’s new book, which takes a look at resurgent wildlife populations and their effect on humans and our thinking.

Learn more at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 4, when Preston visits from Missoula, where he teaches at the University of Montana, for a free talk about his book and answers to questions such as “What is environmental philosophy anyway?”

See you here.

Partnership brings screenings

The Flathead Valley Celtic Festival stages its annual event this year Sept. 8 and 9, but the gatherings started much earlier, first with our co-hosted screening of “Waking Ned Devine,” and now a showing of “Belfast,” set for 7 p.m. Friday, April 14.

Come on out to the museum for the free award-winning movie and Celtic-themed raffle prizes. Refreshments, including beer and wine, will be available for sale.

Festival co-founder Rob Eberhardy (shown with daughters Katie (left) and Anna), who with his wife Shelley Eberhardy founded the festival in 2015, says the screenings “are a great way to gather the community, aid in enrichment, and, of course, have fun!”

See you here!

Speakers wrap up the John White Series

Thanks to our talented lineup (from left), Kyren Zimmerman, Randy & Jim Mohn, Amy Grisak, and John Fraley, we know a lot more about our corner of the world, from the depths of Flathead Lake to moviegoing, fire lookouts to wilderness reflection. Thank you to our presenters, all who came and listened, and the volunteers and staff who make it all possible!

We’re already looking forward to the 22nd annual edition. In the meantime, send us your nominations for next year and consider joining our John White Series committee, which will roll up its sleeves and get to planning this fall.

Chinese came to cook, clean, and lay tracks, but their stories were seldom told

From the Northwest Montana History Museum archives: a Certificate of Residence for Mar You required by the Geary Act of 1892.

Until now, that is.

Mark T. Johnson, a University of Notre Dame professor who lives in Helena, started delving into the stories of some of the Chinese who made the leap to the West when he came across untranslated archives of material at the Montana Historical Society dating from the 1880s to the 1950s.

At the time, Johnson was teaching at a school in Shanghai and had connections to many eager language learners and bilingual readers. Assembling a transnational, multigenerational team, Johnson undertook the supervision of deciphering hundreds of mostly primary documents—typically letters—for English-language audiences.

His book, The Middle Kingdom under the Big Sky: A History of the Chinese Experience in Montana (University of Nebraska Press), details the difficult and sometimes rewarding life of one of our state’s largest classes of immigrants. At one point, Chinese residents accounted for more than a tenth of the state’s population.

Many Montanans know that Chinese labor was instrumental in laying tracks for the railroads on which much of frontier life depended, as well as laundries, restaurants, and other essential services.


On Monday, April 10, Johnson visits the Northwest Montana History Museum to detail his findings and process. He will illuminate the pressures Chinese Montanans felt in their new digs and from their families back home.

Navigating government bureaucracy, frequent racism, and an ever-changing political landscape, Chinese Montanans often advocated for themselves and contributed more than just labor to their communities.

Mark your calendars for a rare glimpse into the lives of many who arrived early in Montana and aided our region’s development.

Photographer dives into our past

Maritime archaeology explorer Kyren Zimmerman gives us a tour of fascinating objects at the bottom of Flathead Lake and other area waterways. He uses ROV and other technology to render images of sunken boats, rail cars, and other treasures. See for yourself at the last of the talks in our 21st annual John White Series at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26.

With just a couple of dozen tickets left, which you can purchase online or at the museum from 10 to 5 weekdays, we expect this event to sell out as with other talks in the series.

See you Sunday!

Author invites view into “My Wilderness Life”

Writer and former wildlife biologist John Fraley appears Feb. 5 in the third installment of the museum’s 21st annual John White Series.

For the first time, popular Northwest Montana author John Fraley, who usually turns his pen to historical figures of Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and other wild spaces, has turned his attention to himself. His newly published fifth book, My Wilderness Life, tells of the inspiration and sometimes tragedy of giving into the risk of exploring remote places.

“I didn’t want to write a self-indulgent memoir,” Fraley says, “so instead I basically followed the template of my other books. Each chapter features the challenges and rewards of adventuring in the wilderness, except this time they’re adventures I experienced firsthand.”

Always an engaging speaker and an inquisitive researcher and observer, Fraley takes us along on the trail of his life and where reflection and wilderness intersect.

The John White Series is named for longtime custodians at the former Central School, who encouraged Kalispell learners for decades.

The 2023 series wraps Feb. 26 with Kyren Zimmerman talking about marine archeology photography and what lies beneath the surface of Flathead Lake and other waters.