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The Graveyard Speaks – A Photographic Essay By Lee Silliman At MonDak Heritage Center


The MonDak Heritage Center presents "The Graveyard Speaks" A Photographic Essay by Lee Silliman from October 4 – December 3rd, 2016

A black and white photography exhibit by Lee Silliman, entitled "The Graveyard Speaks: The Pathos of Ghost Town Cemeteries," will be on display at the MonDak Heritage Center from October 4 to December 3. The exhibit is being circulated under the auspices of the Montana Art Gallery Director's Association.

This exhibit explores the final phase of our ineluctable passage. In his travels throughout Montana and other western states to old mining camps and ghost towns, photographer Lee Silliman seeks out their abandoned cemeteries, for these hallowed grounds present a palpable record of the former community's struggle for life. He ferrets out those monuments-stone and wooden-which reveal our forebears' tribulations, as well as their fervent hopes for eternal reunion with loved ones. Particularly alluring are the monuments engraved with poetic phrases or eloquent prose, which frequently adored nineteenth century gravestones.

All too often children's headstones dot these deserted enclosures, for until the last one hundred years, humankind marshaled but feeble resistance to the onslaught of childhood diseases. Indeed, the expressions of grief chiseled upon the multitude of headstones of deceased children are most heart-rending-and there was no balm. For example, one Elkhorn, Montana, headstone read "Gone ere sin could blight or sorrow fade," while a stone in the Glendale, Montana, cemetery read "Budded on earth, to blossom in heaven."

By utilizing an 8 x 10 inch view camera, by making nuanced 8 x 10 inch contact prints in his own darkroom, and by archivally framing these results in his own picture frame shop, the photographer has sought to create a poignant union of art and history. The exhibit consists of thirty-seven images mounted inside thirty-five hardwood frames which Silliman hand crafted.

The MonDak Heritage Center is located at 120 3rd Avenue SE in Sidney. If you have any questions, please call the museum at 406-433-3500 or email us at


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