Interpretive Wayfinding Kiosks Fostering Civic Pride Through Meaningful Story-Telling At Missoula Public Library And Missoula Art Museum

Local Media

July 20, 2021


Downtown Missoula, from time immemorial to present, has been a gathering place for people of all walks of life. It is a place where transportation routes converge, where people gather to express themselves, and where they gather for community. To showcase and preserve Missoula’s spirit of place through the Heritage Missoula program, the Downtown Missoula Partnership (DMP), along with partners Historical Research Associates, Inc. and the Séliš-Ql̓ispé Cultural Committee, have completed the first two of nine interpretive wayfinding kiosks in Downtown Missoula.

Heritage Missoula is a program to help shape the Downtown experience and celebrate the distinct character of the community by tying together natural and cultural resources into a cohesive network. With the understanding that Missoula has long been a gathering place, the Downtown Missoula Heritage Interpretive Plan is focused on four different themes related to gathering:

  • Landscape and Homelands
  • Create & Exchange
  • Community Life
  • Memory & Experience

The interpretive wayfinding kiosks encourage audiences to make meaningful connections to the shared human experience through education and story-telling. The installation of the first kiosk happened in October 2020 at the newly-built Missoula Public Library at 455 E Main St. The content, written by the Séliš-Qli̓spé Cultural Committee, tells the story of how Missoula — Nɫʔay, meaning Place of Little Bull Trout — has been a central part of the homelands of the Séliš and Qli̓spé nations for thousands of years, how it has been transformed in recent centuries — and how it continues to be a place of importance to tribal people today.

The second kiosk was completed at the end of June. This interpretive story, written by Kayla Blackman at Historical Research Associates, Inc., focuses on the arts heritage within Missoula and how that energy speaks to Missoula’s spirit of place. This kiosk is located at the Missoula Art Park.

“Missoula is changing all around us,” said Kayla Blackman, Historian at Historical Research Associates, Inc. “By focusing on our past and capturing the stories that define our shared experiences, hopefully we can preserve what makes Missoula unique for future generations.”

The new interpretive wayfinding kiosks are the first of several new kiosks that will anchor the new Downtown Legacy Trail, a cultural pathway that will guide audiences with bronze street medallions on a Downtown heritage tour. Heritage trails provide clear direction for audiences to immerse themselves in heritage experiences. Notable examples include the Boston Freedom Trail, Rochester (NY) Heritage Trail, and the Cincinnati Brewing Heritage Trail. Heritage trails differ from published walking tours alone in that they lead audiences with physical guidance such as sidewalk lines, medallions/markers, or both.

“We’re thrilled to see these first visible pieces of the Heritage Interpretive Plan come together,” explained Jimmy Grant, a historian with Historical Research Associates, Inc. who led the interpretive planning efforts on behalf of the DMP. “There are so many things that make Downtown Missoula a special place, so we hope that these new interpretive features will bring our community’s stories to light and make them accessible to the public at large. We’re especially grateful for the contributions of the Séliš-Ql̓ispé Culture Committee and their ongoing commitment to this project. I can think of no better way to get this project started than with our first kiosk acknowledging that this place has been homelands for countless generations.”

The wayfinding kiosks are part of the Missoula Wayfinding System that was finished in 2013. This Wayfinding Plan is intended to help citizens find their way and showcases community assets and Missoula’s sense of place. The Downtown Missoula Partnership has already funded the fabrication and installation of 35 pedestrian directional signs, completed in 2016 in partnership with the City of Missoula. The Downtown Missoula Partnership continues to raise funds for more informational and interpretive wayfinding signs installed in key locations throughout Downtown.

The Interpretive Wayfinding Kiosks can be seen at the Missoula Public Library (455 E. Main) and the Missoula Art Park (335 N. Pattee St.) and the Downtown Missoula Heritage Interpretive Plan can be viewed online at For more information or to connect about Heritage Missoula ideas, contact DMP Program Director Kalina Wickham via email ([email protected]) or phone (406-543-4238).


Downtown Missoula: connecting Our Community!

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