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ND State Heritage Center


Five years ago, in November 2001, five former North Dakota governors and current Governor John Hoeven gathered at the State Heritage Center in Bismarck on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the state’s largest museum.

They talked about the planning of the North Dakota Heritage Center, which began in 1963 when Governor William Guy first projected the idea of a state heritage center and its future.

It was not until the mid-1970s, however, that sufficient funds were obtained and, in late 1980, the State Historical Society of North Dakota staff moved in from the Liberty Memorial Building, and dedication ceremonies were held during the summer of 1981.

The current facility includes two wings and a connecting section, totaling 130,000 square feet of exhibit space, research areas, museum, library, archival storage and meeting and office space. In 2000, a new paleontology laboratory, operated by the North Dakota Geological Survey, moved into the Heritage Center and houses the state’s fossil collection.

At the November 2001 gathering, Guy, Arthur Link, Allan Olson, George Sinner, Edward Schafer and Hoeven discussed preserving and promoting the state’s history. The five former governors signed a resolution asking Hoeven to appoint a review commission to study whether the Heritage Center should be expanded and to examine staffing adequacy for the State Historical Society.

The 18-member commission was established by Hoeven in September 2002, and an Interim Report was presented to the 2003 Legislature. Four of the report’s seven recommendations for expansion of the State Historical Society’s resources were approved by the end of the 2005 Legislative session.

The 2005 Legislature approved a $5.5-million bonding measure for a 32,000-square-foot addition to the Heritage Center’s State Archives area. To be completed in 2007, it is being built on the southwest side of the building and will provide much needed storage space for documents, newspapers and maps that tell the story of North Dakota and its people.

At the ground breaking for the State Archives expansion in September 2005, Link said, “By recording the history of our state, we are honoring the memory of our parents; we are demonstrating our confidence in the professional integrity of our State Historical Society of North Dakota and its Foundation; and we are demonstrating to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren a gift of timeless value.”

With the archives expansion under way, the current six-year, $50-million fundraising campaign will nearly double the size of the Heritage Center and features:

—A new entrance and visitors’ services facing State Street;

— a new temporary gallery for high-profile, traveling exhibits and collections;

— Geological Time and First Peoples galleries and exhibits showing the state’s industry innovations and expanding technologies;

—children’s galleries and learning labs, with high-tech interactive exhibits;

— a café, outdoor patio and special events areas; and

— a 3-D theater and living wall murals featuring statewide sites and attractions.

North Dakota’s largest museum is expected to become even larger, and it’s an exciting time for the future of the Heritage Center and North Dakota.

by Cathy A. Langemo

WritePlus Inc.