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University History Research Guide: Introduction to UM History

A guide to the history of The University of Montana-Missoula.

Introduction to University of Montana History

Main Hall in the snow

The University of Montana-Missoula has a long and rich history full of interesting stories. The Montana State Legislature authorized the creation of the university on February 13, 1893 and two years later, on September 11, 1895, it opened. Classes were held on the grounds of what is now Willard School until the university moved to its current location in February of 1899. The first graduation ceremony occurred in June 1898 for Ella Robb Glenny and Eloise Knowles. In 1900, the university’s motto Lux et Veritas, meaning light and truth in Latin, was adopted.

The information in this guide has been pulled from multiple sources and represents a fraction of University-related materials held by Archives and Special Collections. If you can't find what you're looking for, please contact us at (406) 243-2053, send us an email, or stop by. We are located on the 4th floor of the Mansfield Library.

What's in This Guide?

This guide is organized by different introductory topics about the University of Montana's history, pulled from various sources in the Mansfield Library's Archives and Special Collections. Use the tabs above or the links below to navigate this guide.

Each page includes a list of resources available online and in person at Archives and Special Collections.

University Colors

The 1905 ASUM student handbook lists the university’s official colors as copper, silver and gold.

At the time, it was difficult to get fabric in metallic colors and students wanted to wear their school spirit so “spirit colors” of maroon, gray and yellow were adopted.

The dual color system continued until 1967 when the colors were changed to orange and yellow. In 1996, the colors were changed back to maroon and gray.

University Name Changes

February 13, 1893 to June 30, 1913
The University of Montana-Missoula

July 1, 1913 to February 15, 1935
State University of Montana 

February 16, 1935 to June 30, 1965
Montana State University 

July 1, 1965 to Today
The University of Montana

Homecoming

In 1914, the University of Montana [then the State University of Montana] held its first ever homecoming football game. They played Montana State University [then Montana State College] and won 7-6. From 1916-1918, no Homecoming celebration occurred due to World War I, but in 1919, Homecoming officially resumed on November 27 and 600 alums returned to UM. In the last 1920s and early 1930s, Homecoming wasn't celebrated annually, and there was no Homecoming event during 1943-1945 due to World War II. Since then, Homecoming has been held every year during the fall semester.

Singing on the Steps, which had been a tradition held on the steps of Main Hall before every home game, later became a Homecoming-specific tradition. The practice of Singing on the Steps ceased in the late 20th century, but was later revived in the early 2000s.

General Digital Resources

Oral Histories
Oral history interviews with UM students, faculty, staff, and administrators are great primary sources for researching the university because they contain personal stories, insights, and behind-the-scenes information about the daily workings of the university and the campus community. Each item in the list below links to a different UM oral history project available via ScholarWorks.


Photographs
Archives and Special Collections has thousands of photographs of the University of Montana, its buildings, grounds, faculty and staff, and students. View hundreds of digitized UM photos in the Archival Photographs from the University of Montana collection in the Montana Memory Project, and contact us if you can't find what you're looking for.


UM Publications
A number of significant titles from the University Publications collection (UPUBs) have been digitized and are available online via ScholarWorks.

  • The Sentinel, the UM student yearbook, was published annually from 1904-1972 and again from 1987-1989. It includes photographs and information on students, faculty, departments, events, clubs and athletics.
  • The Montana Kaimin, the UM student newspaper, began as monthly publication in 1898. In 1908 it became a weekly and eventually a daily publication. In April 2015, the paper returned to publishing once a week and online.
  • University of Montana News Releases, generally referred to as "press releases" chronicle the activities, events, individuals, and organizations associated with the UM. Releases were sent by UM's University Relations office to various media for broadcast and publication.
  • Early editions of the UM Course Catalogs, or Register as it is sometimes called, were filled with information on students, course selections, academic departments, and faculty and staff.

To find more UM publications available in Archives and Special Collections, link to the guide to the collection.


UM Web Archive
The University of Montana Web Archive captures, preserves and provides access to websites produced by the administration offices, schools, departments, service units, institutes, centers, programs, faculty, students and alumni organizations at the university.

General Print Resources

Physical copies of the materials listed below are available in the Mansfield Library's Archives and Special Collections.

Manuscript Collections
Click on the links listed below to view a guide to an archival collection available in Archives and Special Collections. Each of these collections contains general information about the University of Montana.


University Records

  • The University of Montana Office of the President Records is more than just memos and thank you notes. It is a trove of information on the university. To view the entire box and folder list for these records, contact Archives and Special Collections.
  • The Associate Dean of Students Records contains materials from the women’s student organizations overseen by the University of Montana's Dean of Women, Associate Director of Student Personnel Services, and the Associate Dean of Students. The guide to this collection is available online via ArchivesWest.

Photographs
Archives and Special Collections has thousands of photographs of the University of Montana, its buildings, grounds, faculty and staff, and students. Click on the links listed below to view a guide to a photo collection available in Archives and Special Collections that contains a number of UM-related photos. View hundreds of digitized UM photos in the Archival Photographs from the University of Montana collection in the Montana Memory Project, and contact us if you can't find what you're looking for.

View hundreds of digitized UM photos in the Archival Photographs from the University of Montana collection in the Montana Memory Project, and contact us if you can't find what you want.


UM Publications
The University Publications collection (UPUBs) includes newsletters, annual reports, commencement programs, literary magazines, and lots of other publications created by departments across campus. Some of these materials have been digitized and made available online via ScholarWorks.


Books
Each book listed below is available in the Mansfield Library. Click on each title for more information.

Land Acknowledgement

The University of Montana acknowledges that we are in the aboriginal territories of the Salish and Kalispel people. We honor the path they have always shown us in caring for this place for the generations to come.