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North Dakota: Legendary. Follow the trail of legends

Backstage Pass to North Dakota History

This blog takes you behind the scenes of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Get a glimpse at a day-in-the-life of the staff, volunteers, and partners who make it all possible. Discover what it takes to preserve North Dakota’s natural and cultural history. We encourage dialogue, questions, and comments!

Exhibits by the Numbers

231,134 – Number of people who visited the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum in 2015. What an amazing response!

65,000+ - Number of square feet of exhibit space managed by the State Historical Society of North Dakota across the state. How many of our interpretive centers and historic sites have you visited?

Fort Abercrombie exhibit

In 2008 Fort Abercrombie State Historic Site opened a new interpretive center and permanent exhibit.

8,000+ - Weight in pounds of Dakota the Dinomummy, which staff has moved five times. Prior to the last move, however, preparation work by the North Dakota Geological Survey removed 3,000 pounds of stone matrix, for which our backs are eternally grateful.

925 – Number of objects on display in the Inspiration Gallery. The tallest, at more than 23 feet, is the 1942 wind generator. The International Boundary Marker, acquired in 1905, has been in the State Museum collections longer than any other item.

Kids in the Ag Cab Lab

The tallest object on display is often overshadowed by one the most popular – the interactive tractor!

128 – Number of plastic potatoes that were found when moving offices in 2015. Those with especially good memories may recall a dozen or so of these potatoes being on display next to the John Deere tractor in the ND Heritage Center before the Expansion. Apparently there were some left over…

5 – Words per second that an average museum visitor reads. Exhibit writing aims to hit that sweet spot where all the essential information is conveyed, but done quickly enough that visitors stay engaged and do not walk away.

5 – Number of national awards the State Historical Society has won since 1999 for the exhibits: Early Peoples, Encountering Fort Totten; How Does Your Garden Grow? Gardening in North Dakota; No Two Horns: A Gallery of Art and Exploits; and Scared Beauty: Quillwork of Plains Women

3  –  Number of full-time staff in the Exhibits Department for the State Historical Society of North Dakota

Fighting T. rex

The Exhibits Department bravely faces all exhibit-related challenges; even dinosaurs.

Crowdfunding for science

Crowdfunding is a not a new concept. This practice has become more popular lately since the advent of the internet and social media but has been around in various forms for centuries. The idea is to fund a project with small donations from a large number of people, rather than fund it from large donations from a small number of people. The concept is used to raise money for virtually any product or idea that can garner support, including scientific research.

Mosasaur images

Mosasaur skeletons within the North Dakota State Fossil Collection.

Recently the North Dakota Geological Survey has partnered with a researcher from Texas to study the mosasaurs in the North Dakota State Fossil Collection. Mosasaurs are not dinosaurs but a type of swimming reptile closely related to the Komodo Dragon found in Indonesia today. Mosasaurs lived at the same time as dinosaurs, ruling the oceans while dinosaurs ruled the land. The mosasaur specimens found in the ND State Fossil Collection are all from rocks called the Pierre Formation and are approximately 80 million years old. These rocks were deposited in North Dakota at a time when a shallow sea called the Western Interior Seaway connected the Gulf of Mexico to the Hudson Bay. Currently there are six partial skeletons of mosasaurs in the ND State Fossil Collection and some other unassociated fragments of bones. Study of these specimens would help shed light on the kinds of mosasaurs living in ND at this time as well as putting North Dakota’s underwater world into a more regional context. Our paleontologists with the North Dakota Geological Survey are not specialists with these types of animals, so outsourcing the research is the best way to get the work accomplished.

We hope that you are as excited as we are to learn what the mosasaurs in our collection have to tell us. When this crowdfunded study is complete, we plan to share that information with you through an online open-access journal and our website. Stay tuned!