News and Events

News Archive


Construction Work on ND Heritage Center Expansion Project About To Begin

Posted 3/06/11 (Sun)

BISMARCK – After many years in the planning, construction work is about to begin on the North Dakota Heritage Center expansion project.  The $52 million project will nearly double the size of the current facility with the addition of 97,000 square feet. 

Located on the state capitol grounds, the North Dakota Heritage Center is the headquarters of the state's history agency, the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND). It is also the state's history museum, and its largest museum.

"We are delighted to be at this stage in the project, and want to again thank everyone who has helped to make this dream a reality," said SHSND Director Merl Paaverud. "We want to emphasize that throughout the entire course of the expansion construction these next two years, the North Dakota Heritage Center will remain open on a daily basis for visitors and faciility users." 

The three prime contractors on the expansion project will begin their work by mid-March. They are Comstock Construction, Inc. and Scott’s Electric, Inc., both headquartered in Wahpeton, North Dakota; and Central Mechanical, Inc. of Mandan.  One of their first big projects will be the modification of a corner of the main gallery and the auditorium gallery to prepare for structural work as the weather improves.  SHSND staff are busy removing artifacts from the Bright Dreams and Hard Times exhibit located in the Main Gallery and the Creating Sakakawea exhibit in the Auditorium Gallery in preparation for the construction work, which will begin Monday, March 21.

Construction will take about two years, from March 2011 to January 2013.  The new exhibit galleries will open over the following two-year period, culminating in North Dakota’s 125th anniversary of statehood on November 2, 2014. The 2009 Legislative Assembly authorized $51.7 million for the expansion of the exhibits and collections spaces of the North DakotaHeritageCenter.  Of this, $39.7 million in state funds was appropriated.  The remaining funds are being raised by the State Historical Society of North Dakota Foundation.

Said SHSND Foundation Director Virginia Nelsen: “This exciting and ‘must see’ expanded North Dakota Heritage Center will draw on the timeless architecture of the existing building designed by the architectural firm AWBW of Bismarck more than 30 years ago and create a ‘Smithsonian of the Plains.’  We are so grateful for the strong support this project has received over the years. It will have regional, national, and international significance.

The North DakotaHeritageCenter features temporary and permanent exhibits that preserve and tell the history and prehistory of what is now North Dakota.  In a cooperative agreement with the North Dakota Geological Survey, the HeritageCenter also houses the State Fossil Collection.  Open since 1981 and accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) since 1986, the North Dakota Heritage Center is one of only two museums accredited in the state by the AAM; the other is the PlainsArt Museum in Fargo. The AAM is a national organization, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., that has served the museum profession since 1906. 

The expansion is under the direction of the architectural firms of Hammel, Green and Abrahamson (HGA) Architects and Engineers of Minneapolis, and Lightowler Johnson Associates of Fargo.