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Adventures in Preservation

Looking up the boardwalk in Bannack, Mt.

In the summer of 2019, I met up with a group called Adventures in Preservation (AiP) in Bannack State Park in Montana. Although this trip was not affiliated with EWU or my official education, I chose to take part because I wanted to learn some practical preservation methods in the field.

Bannack, Montana is a former mining town founded in 1862 and was officially the first Territorial Capital of Montana. Like most mining towns, it experienced boom and bust fluctuations in population until it faded to nearly nothing in the 1950s. Today it is a preserved ghost town that is visited by thousands of tourists each year. Nearly all of the buildings are open to the public for exploration. It is managed by the Montana State Parks.

In 2013, a flash flood damaged many of the buildings. The AiP group was there to learn and work on a couple of the buildings. The group was led by a historic preservationist, a preservation specialist, a historic preservation officer from Great Falls, who also happens to be an archaeologist, and a couple of friendly State Park employees.

Up close to a new line of mortar that should protect the building for many years to come.

We spent the week learning about historic log structure construction techniques and getting our hands dirty in the August Montana sun. We removed old mortar and daubing, replacing it with a mixture that was close to the original. We also learned about mortar composition with lime and sand and how to determine what the original composition ratios were.

We also applied liberal amounts of linseed oil to keep the wood from drying out too quickly over time. The buildings looked like they had had a fabulous face lift by the end of the week.

Writing nominations to protect historic sites is gratifying, but getting out in the field and physically aiding in the preservation of a historic building is another experience entirely. It was satisfying to look back at the accomplishments of the week, knowing that these buildings will be around many more years for people to explore and learn the history of.

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