Heritage Center expansion discussed at forumRoughly one year away from opening a brand new exhibit gallery, officials for the State Historical Society of North Dakota presented concept designs for a $52 million expansion of the North Dakota Heritage Center Wednesday to residents in Jamestown.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
Roughly one year away from opening a brand new exhibit gallery, officials for the State Historical Society of North Dakota presented concept designs for a $52 million expansion of the North Dakota Heritage Center Wednesday to residents in Jamestown.
The project will add 97,000 square feet to the existing Heritage Center in Bismarck, including 33,000 square feet of solely new exhibit space.
“Right now we’re at a stage in the exhibit development where we feel comfortable with the design, but we want to make sure the public is comfortable with it as well,” said Chris Johnson, museum division director with the State Historical Society of North Dakota.
The public presentation outlined the concept designs for three exhibit galleries — Geologic Time Gallery, Early Peoples Gallery and Inspiration Gallery. Each gallery will open incrementally between July 2013 and September 2014, leading up to the completion of the project.
“The entire project is expected to be ready for us to celebrate North Dakota’s 125th anniversary of statehood on Nov. 2, 2014,” said Johnson, who was the main speaker at Wednesday’s forum.
Each gallery will examine a different aspect of North Dakota’s history.
The Geologic Time Gallery will look at dinosaurs, fossils, geology and the development of the North Dakota landscape. It is set to open in July 2013.
The Early Peoples Gallery is designed to highlight the state’s Native American population in addition to presenting about the relationship that existed with European Americans. It is set to open in September 2013.
The Inspiration Gallery will examine the state’s history from its earliest days up until the present through six themes: agriculture, industry, settlement, conflict, communities and culture. It is set to open in September 2014.
“We want this building to serve as a hub for people when they come to Bismarck,” Johnson said. “You can learn the basics here but if you want to learn about the Cold War, we’ll probably send you to the Ronald Reagan Missile Site in Cooperstown, or if you want to learn about buffalo, we’ll probably send you to Jamestown.”
The visit to Jamestown was the seventh in a series of eight presentations around the state, including cities like Williston, Minot and Fargo.
Johnson said feedback about the designs has been positive around the state.
“We’ve had good discussion about the routes that these exhibits should take,” he said. “Our mission is to hear from the public and make sure we’re on the right track.”
Forum participants commented about several concepts they would like to see as part of the expanded Heritage Center.
“There are so many untold stories of women in North Dakota history that I would like to see displayed in some way,” said Barbara Lang, a Jamestown resident.
Other forum participants spoke about the importance of emphasizing things such as stories of the earliest settlers and their families, western author Louis L’Amour, the roots of North Dakota politics and the impact of discovering oil in the western part of the state.
“Overall, this should be a good mix between changing exhibits and interactivity that everyone will get a chance to enjoy,” said Maria Piacente, vice president of Lord Cultural Resources and lead project manager for the Heritage Center expansion.
The series of public presentations will conclude tonight in Bismarck at the Heritage Center.
For more information about the expansion or the State Historical Society of North Dakota, visit www.history.nd.gov.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at email@example.com