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Brown bag lunches at the Archives in the age of COVID-19

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By Diane Larson

 
Kim Murphy Kohn, photo by Jim Larson

November 16, 2020
Butte -
The people of Butte are passionate about its history.

 

This is evident in the success of the Brown Bag Lunches, (BBLs) that are held twice a month at the Archives.

 

 “The Brown Bag Lunches were recommended by a visitor,” said Ellen Crain, Director of The Butte-Silver bow Public Archives. The room is almost always filled to capacity with those interested to hear the speaker. “We’ve been doing these Brown Bag Lunches, I think, since the new building opened in 2010,” said Kim Kohn, the Archives Technician and Scheduler. “They are a very successful component of the Archives Program,” said Crain.

 

The lecture series started shortly after the Archives opened their doors at 17 West Quartz in Uptown Butte. They have, traditionally, been an hour-long program that focuses on everything Butte. They have covered local authors and musicians; there have been programs about the superfund and Montana politics, as well as our colorful and glorious history.

 

If you have not attended one of these in the past, here is what to expect. The programs are approximately one hour-long. You are invited to bring a lunch; coffee and water are provided. Just come in take a seat and enjoy the show. The room at the Archives where these are held holds about 100 people depending on table and chair configuration.

 

Kim is the host; she explains the topic and introduces the speaker. Each speaker and topic are presented differently; you might see slides or a power point or just the speaker, each one is different. “We have a lot of fun; we don’t require that you do a slide show but a lot of people have started doing that. Some people just come up and talk, sometimes people come and perform, some play music. I try to keep it interesting and varied,” explained Kim.

 

“I love to get the local authors too. Whether they’ve written about Butte or are from Butte, one or the other. And it is amazing how may books have been written about Butte and yet we have barely scratched the surface,” said Kim.

 

But all of this was how the BBLs looked prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

When COVID hit “we had to stop the lunches,” said Kim. They scurried to contact speakers that were already scheduled, and we had to cancel or reschedule; everyone was really understanding Kim explained.

 

But the BBLs wouldn’t be gone for long. Soon they came up with a way to keep the discussions going but in a new format. “Ellen Crane, [Director of Archives] had gone on the Partyline show on KBOW with Ron Davis, owner of Butte Broadcasting. The idea just came up right there as they (Ellen and Ron) were speaking, hey, we could do the Brown Bag Lunches on partyline,” explained Kim.

 

For those who don’t know, the KBOW “Partyline is the longest running daily talk show in the Northwestern United States,” according to KBOWs web site.

 

Once an idea was born, the logistics would soon follow.

 

With the new venue in place the format of the original BBLs had to change a bit. “It isn’t a traditional party line. I come in, and I am the one interviewing the guest speaker,” explained Kim. As opposed to the speaker doing a lecture type of presentation you have an interview, like a talk show. But some of the guest speakers do come in with

a prepared lecture or notes. Kim explained how the show proceeds often depends on the speaker. “When Father Beretta [came on the show] he had a prepared talk which he presented, and then we discussed it. It brought up a lot of questions,” said Kim.


In this new format, it is generally just Kim and the guest speaker. Sometimes Ron Davis will sit in on the program with them to offer some support, guidance and or insight, Kim noted.

 

November will see only one Brown Bag Lunch. That will air on the 11th; Larry Hoffman will talk about the first two women to graduate from the School of Mines. They were Clara Clark and Isabel Little. These two ladies enrolled when the school opened in 1900 and graduated in 1904. “And then there were no women graduates in engineering until like the sixties. So that's almost 60 years without the presence of women at the School of Mines,” said Kim. Hoffman will share his research about these two first female students. The fourth Wednesday falls on the day before Thanksgiving so there will not be a BBL.

 

At the time of this writing, December’s topics were still being researched. We might hear Aubrey Jaap, who is the Assistant Director of the Archives, and she is in charge of government records which will be her topic. “We don’t just collect historical documents. Our primary purpose is to maintain the noncurrent record of our local government. It sounds very dry when you talk about the government record, but there is so much to it and this topic is going to be really interesting,” explained Kim.

 

For those that are interested in past Brown Bag talks, Kohn recorded many of them. These videos can be viewed on archives YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFtLKSd8JPY9vEzCdKGwA6Q

 

What the BBLs will look like in 2021 is still to be decided. It is understood that many folks are missing the chance to go to the Archives and hear a speaker in person. The logistics to making this happen are still being considered. Also, we still do not know our future past the pandemic. But we will keep you posted.

 

For those who need to use the Archives it is asked that you schedule a time to visit. “During COVID we are open our regular hours Monday through Friday nine to five, but we do request that people make an appointment. They can call our main number 782-3280,” said Kim. The Archives cannot have more than 10 people in the reading room and try to put people at tables that are properly social distanced. 

 

Final reminder, the new Brown Bag Lunch is still on the second and fourth Wednesday but it is currently on KBOW at 1:00 pm. 


 


 

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