Dick is a geologist with a 40-year worldwide career in oil exploration. He served as a study leader on Smithsonian Journeys in Iceland, Alaska, and Western Parks of the US and Canada. In Butte, he has driven the Chamber of Commerce tourist trolley since 2009 and has been a walking tour guide with Old Butte Historical Adventures since 2006. He worked in various capacities with the World Museum of Mining and Butte Citizens for Preservation and Revitalization, and was a member of the county’s Historic Preservation Commission. He is on the board of directors of the Mai Wah Chinese Museum and is a founder of the Butte Labor History Center. He volunteered for the National and Montana Folk Festivals for 5 years and participated in the National Summit of Mining Communities, and was the tours and guidebook editor for the National Vernacular Architecture Forum’s 2009 meeting in Butte.

Dick is the author of “Lost Butte, Montana,” published by The History Press in 2012; co-author of “Historic Stained Glass in Selected Houses of Worship, Butte, Montana” (2006); 18 articles on historic preservation published by the Montana Standard newspaper in 2008; the “Ethnic Map of Butte”; “Geological Underpinnings of Butte” and articles in various magazines as well as booklets about Butte’s Historic Parking Lots and Butte Bakeries. Dick is the author of two blogs focusing on Butte history and the Butte-Anaconda National Historic Landmark with about 300 articles.

He is also the author of two popular science books, “What Things Are Made Of – America’s Global Dependency for Nearly Everything,” and “History of the Earth: a Perpetual Calendar” which was also converted into 366 online podcasts in 2014. He continues to do occasional oil industry consulting and geology instruction, but Butte history is now his passion.


Richard Gibson
Richard Gibson

How do the experiences you offer give guests a unique perspective on history, people or culture of Butte?

The trolley tour provides a good overview, with some insight into mining history, labor history, ethnic history, geology, architecture, and more. Specific tours, such as Old Butte Historical Adventures’ walking tours, show them the unique places such as the prohibition-era speakeasy and the old city jail. The Mai Wah Chinese Museum and the Butte Labor History Center that I’m also involved with offer insights to more specific niches of Butte’s history and culture.

How have the tours that you offer evolved since their inception?

New discoveries and expansions into known but undeveloped spaces are changes; at the Mai Wah museum we have significantly expanded the exhibits in the past 4 years. As new information comes to light, sometimes specific words or stories on the trolley tour or others may change to accommodate the new updated information.

What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?

I know that my trolley tour is a really comprehensive, integrated look at Butte history, connecting, for example, the church district to the Labor story, and ethnicities to the mining story. Some may recognize it, others may not, but it is important to me to give that interconnected rather than disjointed look at Butte.

What do you wish every guest knew as they consider visiting Butte, Montana?

That there is SOOOOOOOO much more to Butte than the Berkeley Pit; that the reputation of a dirty, drunken, fighting town, which was certainly more or less correct 40 years ago, is now wrong and that the history we offer is of international significance.

What is one travel trend that really excites you?

Increasing interest in historical, cultural tourism, because this is what Butte has to trade on.

What sets your tours apart from those offered by others?

Pride in accuracy – we convey a vast amount of correct information without embellishment – combined with the right degree of entertainment.

What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?

In Butte, the tip would be, plan to spend more than a half-day. Take the overview tour on the trolley, then pick one or more of the specialized experiences to focus your time here.

What is one strategy that has helped your tour business to grow?

It isn’t really a strategy, but I would say excellent word-of-mouth promotion is the single biggest factor in getting the word out that the tours are truly excellent experiences.

What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?

Learning to pace my speech in a way that I avoid ‘er,’ ‘um,’ etc. and speak slowly enough that people can follow easily. My biggest strength, though, is detailed, careful research so that I can answer almost any question.

Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.

It happens all the time that visitors are either connected with a place through an ancestor, or through an ethnic group (e.g. Irish, Chinese) so that it is easy to connect, and we have enough detailed information (deaths in the mines, for example) that it can bring a tear to someone whose ancestor died in the mines or walked past a particular building. Chinese visitors are usually astonished to find the evidence of such a thriving Chinese community here in Butte America.

Connect:

Richard Gibson website:  www.gravmag.com
Richard Gibson email:  rigibson@earthlink.net
Richard Gibson Facebook:  www.facebook.com/richard.gibson.7547
Butte history blog:  http://buttehistory.blogspot.com
Butte labor history blog:  http://buttelaborhistory.blogspot.com/
Richard’s history of the earth website:  http://historyoftheearthcalendar.blogspot.com/

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