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The Ravalli County Museum is launching a new exhibition, “The People of Fire and Ice: Human Habitation in the Greater Yellowstone Area,” on Thursday, August 20, at 6 p.m. with an opening reception.

The humanities exhibition was organized and brought to the museum by the Washakie Museum & Cultural Center in Worland, Wyoming. It is a traveling exhibit that traces the history of humans in the Yellowstone region from 11,000 years ago to 1920, via 40 photographs, 40 text panels, audio and more.

Fran Scranton, a longtime member of the Washakie Museum, helped to develop the archaeology section of the display, and will introduce the exhibit at the opening reception. The Ravalli County Museum has increased the length of the timeline of the exhibit up to 2013 by including photos of the Yellowstone area taken by Ernst Peterson.

Executive director Tamar Stanley said the exhibit describes the glacial age, anthropology, history, and archaeology of the ice-age era.

“It is connected with Yellowstone which is our backyard,” said Stanley. “I know people have a real connection with Glacial Lake Missoula and geology of the valley and learning about that and the landscape in which they live – it makes it feel more real to them.

“This really hits the natural history tier of our focus, and we feel this will have the same impact that our natural history exhibit last year did. Every year we do one natural history, one art, and one history – a three-tiered focus.

“Having a new exhibit up here every 90 days really allows the people to shift gears. We just finished with SpectrUM and had a great turnout – there were over 4,000 kids here.”

Before Yellowstone was established as a national park, the region was inhabited by humans and used for its resources.

The “People of Fire and Ice” exhibition explores six humanities themes: History, Archaeology, Anthropology, Art History, Folklore and Jurisprudence.

Throughout the duration of the exhibit, the Ravalli County Museum also will present “A Season of Adventures: Hands-on Children’s Activities” every Saturday morning, 10 a.m. to noon.

The schedule is:

August 22 – Rock Art – Children will create works of art like the ancient nomadic tribal people. August 29 – Digging History – Experience archeological discovery using warm water to dig “artifacts” out of ice. Sept. 5 – Mentos Geysers – Children experience the thrill of creating a geyser with soda and Mentos. Sept. 12 – Pemmican – Make a delicious snack from meat, fruits and nuts using a mortar and pestle. Sept. 19 – Ice Volcanoes – Children make their own erupting volcano with baking soda, water, vinegar and food coloring. Sept. 26 – Prehistoric Clothing – Explore clothing of stone age people. Discover what people wore before there were clothing stores. Oct. 3 – Ancient Tools – Make bows, arrows, spears and paintbrushes out of recyclable materials. Oct. 10 – Stone Age Jewelry – Adorn yourself with jewelry you make from “stone age” materials. Oct. 17 – Layers of Sediment – Learn how different layers of dirt tell how the age of an object. Explore how archeologists date artifacts. Oct. 24 – Story Time Around the Camp Fire – Come sit around the campfire and listen to Fire and Ice folktales. Oct. 31 – Cave Painting – Learn how ancient people used drawing to tell stories and tell your story with your own artistic creation.

“The kids’ activities will be linked to each of the disciplines that are presented in the exhibit,” said Stanley. “It’s the same formula that works for us. We hope to see a lot of families and a lot of kids that come to have a memorable morning at the museum and then head off to their day.”

The museum will also host two lectures each month for adults, on select Thursdays at 6 p.m.

“We have a variety of speakers – one will be on Glacial Lake Missoula,” Stanley said.

The museum is also trying technology with this exhibit. There are hand set recordings for patrons to use that tell about the displays they are viewing.

“We want to see if people respond well – there is more technology available if our patrons like it,” she said.

“We always layer on things from our collections – that is really important to us. We feel that shows the community that what is housed in the community is usable and accessible. We brought out the best photos by Ernst Peterson in his Yellowstone collection. This year the Ravalli County Museum had an intern through the Montana State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB) and intern Mary Wise found these images.”

“These are iconic Yellowstone images by Ernst Peterson,” said Wise. “Peterson was a commercial photographer in the 1950s and from these images you can see he has a unique compositional style. I think he conforms to, but breaks significantly from, the genre of American Western photography. Peterson was an active photographer in the ’20s and ’30s from the Bitterroot Valley, he also has amazing photos from the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, I mean, he was developing his style. We found images of his college days, early backpacking, and they show his evolution as a photographer. He had a fantastic sense of humor – and a quirky style.”

Additionally, there are smaller exhibits around the courtroom that tie in – like one family’s story about their time in Yellowstone Park.

The Ravalli County Museum’s exhibition – “The People of Fire and Ice: Human Habitation in the Greater Yellowstone Area” will be available August 20 – Nov. 5. A full list of children’s activities is available on the museum’s website at Fire and Ice tours can be scheduled by calling Museum Educator Rachael Woods at (406)363-3338 or email her at

Reach reporter Michelle McConnaha at 363-3300 or


Staff Reporter

Reporter at The Ravalli Republic