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Archives Month, Part 6

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Today we continue our series on October as American Archives Month.

In North Dakota, the state archives are managed by the State Historical Society. In early 1907, the society received welcome funding and some office space in the Capitol for the collections. However, by December, the Bismarck Tribune reported that the archives already needed more room and more funds, saying: “The [Society] has a good start, but we are far behind our sister states, and much of historical value that ought to be in our possession has already gone to enrich the treasures of other states.”

So, it was no surprise that by 1910, Orin G. Libby, secretary of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, notified interested parties that an upcoming meeting would include attention to the efforts being made to secure a better space. In fact, Libby wanted to get a Carnegie library. Libby sent out feelers and wrote: “[The State Historical Library] is both a free library and a public library, and is besides the only reference library of any size available for public use in the entire western half of our state. … Indeed, the library is growing so rapidly that is has become impossible already to handle the material so as to make it available to its readers…. The state is young and poor and has so many demands for its public money that it would be many years before any suitable building can be provided for this important collection of books.”

Bismarck did receive a Carnegie library, but that came years later and did not host the State Historical Society. It was instead the start of the Bismarck Public Library.

In the meantime, carpenters busily installed more shelves for the Historical Society’s library that would help care for the many books that were even stacked on the floor. Eventually, in 1924, the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and its archives, would move into a new building — the Liberty Memorial Building. Today, it’s the oldest building still standing on the Capitol grounds and remains the home of the North Dakota State Library.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


Bismarck Daily Tribune, March 26, 1907, p5

Bismarck Daily Tribune, December 10, 1907, p4

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, December 14, 1910, p7

10085 Orin G. Libby. Carnegie Library proposal 1910 box 6 folder 27

Bismarck Daily Tribune, February 8, 1916, p1


Bismarck Daily Tribune, December 7, 1912, p4

State Historical Society of North Dakota Illustrated Handbook, 1937

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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