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New Designs for Proposed $52.4 million expansion

Posted 11/09/08 (Sun)

BISMARCK – New architectural designs and a detailed model showing the second phase of expansion of the North Dakota Heritage Center are being unveiled at eight luncheons across the state this month. The luncheons, sponsored by the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND) and its Foundation, will show detailed design concepts for the $52.4 million expansion project. The 2007 North Dakota Legislature appropriated $1.5 million for the expanded designs for the 97,000-square-foot-addition.

“We’re on the brink of an extraordinary time in North Dakota, and it’s time for an extraordinary state museum to reflect that, not only for us, but also for our children and for generations to come,” says SHSND Director Merl Paaverud.

Dates for the luncheons are:

Fargo, Monday, October 13
Grand Forks, Tuesday, October 14
Devils Lake, Wednesday, October 15
Jamestown, Monday, October 20
Bismarck, Tuesday, October 21
Dickinson, Tuesday, October 28
Williston, Wednesday, October 29
Minot, Thursday, October 30
The luncheons are being underwritten by SHSND Foundation supporters, says Virginia Nelsen, executive director of the SHSND Foundation. “Many people from across the state have taken an interest in being part of this opportunity to better tell the story of North Dakota to the world through this expanded ‘hub of history.’”

Luncheon sponsors are Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, Fargo; Minnkota Power Cooperative, Nodak Electric and the University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center, Grand Forks; Western State Bank, Devils Lake; North Dakota Farmers Union, Jamestown; Flash Printing, Bismarck; Baker Boy, Dickinson; Sun Well Service and El Rancho Motor Hotel, Williston; and Verendrye Electric Cooperative and Souris River Telephone, Minot.

In addition to the 97,000 square foot addition, this Phase II project would also include renovation of existing portions of the Heritage Center. In the Phase I expansion efforts, more than $21 million in investments were secured from state, federal and private sources to enhance regional state historic sites, the most recent being Fort Abercrombie near Fargo and Wahpeton, and the Chateau de Mores Interpretive Center in Medora. A strong grant program was also approved by the Legislative Assembly, as well as a funding mechanism for a Preservation Emergency Fund to help with regional historic preservation projects. And a $5.7 million expansion of the State Archives was funded mostly through a bond approved by the 2005 Legislative Assembly.

In addition to badly needed new exhibit gallery and collections space, the Phase II expansion would also include:

Hub of History Information Center for sites and activities throughout the entire state, offering computer-generated maps, tours by interest and/or region, and ticketing information for special events, tours, and bus trips
The First Peoples Gallery, about the 11,000-year history of American Indians on the Northern Plains
The Geological Time Gallery, about the hundreds of millions of years, including the era of the dinosaurs, that preceded the arrival of people in what is now North Dakota
The Governors Gallery, designed primarily for high-profile, temporary exhibits
The Inspiration, Opportunities and Innovation Gallery, including industry innovations and expanding technologies of the past 70 years
The North Dakota Corridor of History, a 25-foot-wide passageway connecting the new galleries and featuring floor exhibits, high-tech wall murals and visitor seating
The Great Plains Theater, a 60-seat theater offering Smithsonian-quality programs
The Northern Lights Atrium, a beacon that will welcome all visitors
A café, outdoor patio and expansive spaces for special events and conferences
High-tech signage to announce programs and exhibits to attract visitors
Childrens’ galleries and learning labs featuring interactive, ‘hands-on’ exhibits
Facilities for conferences and meetings with business-friendly technology
Large-scale high-definition images of historic and beautiful vistas of North Dakota
The proposed expansion will cost $52.4 million. “Our working plan is to seek funding from a mix of private sources, the federal government and state funds,” Paaverud says.

The Phase II design concepts have been detailed by the architectural firm of Lightowler Johnson Associates of Fargo, in partnership with HGA Architects and Engineers of Minneapolis.

“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 25 years ago and create a ‘Smithsonian of the Plains,’ ” says Nelsen.

The expansion idea began with a meeting of North Dakota’s six living governors at a North Dakota Heritage Center forum in November 2001 celebrating the building’s 20th anniversary. The governors talked about the vision and work that made the Heritage Center a reality, and looked toward the next 20 years of history and heritage tourism for the state. The governors – William Guy, Arthur Link, Allen Olson, George Sinner and Edward Schafer-- signed a resolution asking Governor John Hoeven to appoint a commission to study the possible expansion of facilities and operations of the SHSND. Governor Hoeven appointed that commission in September 2002, and it prepared a report to the 2003 Legislative Assembly recommending a series of investments in the SHSND to spur growth and expansion.

The State Historical Society manages 56 state historic sites in North Dakota. It also manages the Pembina State Museum, a regional museum in northeastern North Dakota, and is headquartered at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck. It has operated as North Dakota’s public history agency since 1895. The State Historical Society has 60 full-time employees and more than 200 volunteers working in its five divisions. It has acquired historic sites, artifacts, books and documents through donation and purchase; promoted historic preservation; and provided education in history and culture through publications, statewide public programs and museum and historic site interpretation in many forms.

For more information on the luncheons and the North Dakota Heritage Center expansion project, contact Virginia Nelsen at the State Historical Society of North Dakota Foundation, P.O. Box 1976, Bismarck, ND 58505; call (701) 222-1966, email Nelsen at; or visit the Foundation web site at