The Montana Historical Society is seeking nominations for people and organizations whose exemplary commitment to identifying and preserving our historical and cultural heritage makes them eligible for the Heritage Keeper Awards.

Up to two people or organizations will be honored by the MHS Board of Trustees for the Heritage Keeper Award. An exemplary nominee may be honored instead with the Montana Heritage Guardian Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of one of the Heritage Keeper Award nominees with a record of outstanding accomplishments. The Heritage Guardian Award is not an annual award, but is only given on special merit.

To qualify, the individual must be alive, and organizations must be currently active. The nominee must have demonstrated a commitment to a significant Montana history project or have identified and preserved objects or property of significance to Montana’s history and culture.

Organizations also must have a record of preserving and promoting Montana’s historical and cultural heritage.


The 2023 Montana Heritage Keeper Awardees were Ellen Baumler of Helena, Ramona Holt of Lolo, and Gene Thayer of Great Falls.

Ellen Baumler was a historian and popular speaker for the Montana Historical Society, and the author of several books on Montana History.

Ramona Holt, along with her late husband Bill, dedicated endless time and resources to collecting and preserving Western art and memorabilia. In 1999 they opened the Holt Heritage Museum on Highway 12 west of Lolo.

Gene Thayer has been the driving force behind developing and sustaining history in many of Great Falls’ leading cultural institutions. He’s been instrumental in expanding the C. M. Russell Museum, Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, and First Presbyterian Church.

The USS Montana Committee received the Heritage Guardian Award in 2023. The MTHS Trustees honored the USS Montana Committee for instilling the U.S. Navy’s newest submarine with a sense of place reflective of the Treasure State’s heritage and values.


All nominees must show a commitment to Montana’s historical and cultural preservation beyond the requirements of professional employment, or an organization’s specific goals and objectives. Evaluations will focus on the significance and impact of the overall work in enhancing, promoting, and stimulating public interest in a specific aspect of Montana history and culture.

Areas of interest can include historic building and landscape preservation; sustained historical and cultural research and publication; fine art history and preservation; and efforts to promote and educate future generations on the historical and cultural legacy of all Montanans. The nomination deadline is April 1, 2024. The nomination form and additional information can be found online at Nominations may be resubmitted on an annual basis if the person or organization didn’t previously receive a Heritage Keeper award.

The Montana Historical Society will work with nominators to honor award recipients and present the award in the summer of 2024. Contact Jenni Carr at with questions.

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