Posted 12/14/09 (Mon)
Change has come to the wheat fields, two-lane highways and rolling pastures of North Dakota.
We've embarked on becoming an energy exporter - wind, oil and coal fueled, the state now exports peas and lentils to global destinations, and call centers and small manufacturing firms are growing up in rural communities across the state. Conversations are laced with terms like carbon sequestration and nanotechnology.
Instead of new residents to the state coming from Germany, Russian and Scandinavian countries, they have fled Sudan, Bosnia or some other home of modern strife.
Diversity no longer solely represents a political or social policy.
The birth rates in the state are highest on Indian reservations.
North Dakota is becoming something other than what it has been. To forge ahead into this new North Dakota, it seems wise to know where we've been, how we've gotten here and who we are. It's key knowledge in determining who and what we will become.
That's what the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the Heritage Center are all about. They offer people, not just scholars and policy-makers, views of the past. They have begun to create a North Dakota narrative, one that helps explain the why of who we are.
Because that narrative is ever-changing, there's a proposal to expand the Heritage Center, allowing a bolder, more comprehensive interpretation of the state's developing story.
The SHSND developed a proposal for a $50 million expansion. The plans and proposal make it a big idea. And Gov. John Hoeven concurred and included a $30 million project in his budget (with $12 million coming from private donation). The North Dakota House of Representatives, shortly before crossover, endorsed the governor's package with a strong 57-35 vote.
Now the Heritage Center expansion project faces scrutiny by the state Senate. Proponents will try to push the $30 million figure closer to the initial request for $50 million. Opponents will like ask for a larger portion of the cost be paid by private donations.
The senate should give the Heritage Center a green light. It's the people's history that we are talking about.
And the dollar value attached to that green light should reflect the state's financial condition, which is rather good.
The existing Heritage Center, with its programs and exhibits, has proven time and time again to be valuable to understanding who we are, how things got to be this way and the nature of this place that we know and love. Its performance and role in North Dakota's ongoing development stands as the best argument for expansion.
The North Dakota Heritage Center isn't about the past, it's about the future.