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Montana Historical Society announces the Lee Metcalf Photograph Collection

By Matthew Peek

The Montana Historical Society (MHS), recipients of a 2012 CLIR “Hidden Collections” grant to process the Lee Metcalf Photograph and Film Collections, is pleased to announce the completion of Lot 31 Lee Metcalf Photograph Collection. The collection, processed by Project Photograph Archivist Matthew Peek for the MHS Photo Archives, is the original congressional and personal image collection of Montana U.S. Senator Lee Metcalf, who served in the U.S. House from 1953-1960 and in the U.S. Senate from 1961-January 1978. Metcalf was as the longest-serving Acting President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate (1963-January 1978), during which time he oversaw and managed the debate over the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Vietnam War debates, the 1964 Wilderness Act, War on Poverty legislation, the Truth in Packaging Act, and numerous other significant 1960s and 1970s Senate floor debates.

The collection contains 3,900 photographic images: 2,687 photographic prints: black and white, color–various sizes (17 oversize); 1,181 film negatives: black and white, color–various sizes; 10 tintypes; and 22 35mm slides. All the photographs and negatives were individually numbered and identified. The collection is organized by series and subseries that match the topical divisions found in the Lee Metcalf Papers (MC 172), housed in the MHS Archives. This organization of Lot 31 allows for better coordination between content in the photographs and papers for researchers and the public. The finding aid, currently around 340 pages, will be encoded to upload to Northwest Digital Archives (NWDA), with a goal for it to be uploaded by June 2014. Lot 31 is already being made available for image reproduction requests, and will be made available for regular research use by the public on April 29, 2014.

Topics covered by the collection include the 1964 Wilderness Act; various farming bills and committee hearings on those bills; congressional reorganization in the 1960s and early 1970s; Inter-Parliamentary Union trips; various Montana officials; U.S. Presidential visits to Montana; images covering Metcalf’s role in the eventually passing of the Secondary and Elementary Education Act of 1965; images showing the implementation of War on Poverty measures in Montana; Native American affairs; dam construction in Montana; and images of Senator Lee Metcalf and his wife Donna’s personal life from 1911 to the 1970s.

This is one of the largest photograph collections of a Montana U.S. congressman in the country, currently second behind Senator Mike Mansfield’s 7,500 image collection at the University of Montana-Missoula. The Lee Metcalf Photograph Collection is one of the few collections nationwide for a 1950s-1970s Democratic Senator that has been item-level processed thus far, making a rare collection of images. For Montana, the collection marks a significant documentation of political life in Montana in the mid-20th century. The photograph collection will be used in 2014 to commemorate the 1964 Wilderness Act, the Economic Opportunity Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1964 Montana Flood, and other anniversary events in which Senator Metcalf was involved. As a Senator called by Ralph Nader’s 1972″Congress Project” as the most liberal U.S. Senator, the Lee Metcalf Photograph Collection is a vital component of bringing awareness to the life and work of a significant, often overlooked, U.S. Senator during the 1960s and 1970s.


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