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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!

You’re a State Historic Site Supervisor - What Does That Mean?

Supervising a state historic site takes an understanding of many different disciplines—an extensive knowledge of history and the history of the site are just the most important. Historic site supervision means I must be ready for anything. When I started as supervisor of the Ft. Totten State Historic Site, I never thought I would soon be fluent in running a Bobcat or using my limited experience (3 weeks) as a temporary assistant for a boiler repairman to fix plumbing in the visitor’s center. Caring for a historic site requires constant vigilance and a willingness to get your hands dirty.

Plumbing repair at Ft. Totten

Repairing bathroom plumbing at Ft. Totten

Currently, I am supervising the restoration and rehabilitation of the hospital, one of 16 historic buildings at Ft. Totten. This summer, we hope to complete the tuck pointing of the masonry as well as repairing and replacing several windows.

In addition to the maintenance of an ever changing historic site, I also spend time planning events and educational programming for the site. We are always challenging ourselves to come up with new ideas to interpret the site, and to hopefully better tell the story of Ft. Totten. We are presently planning the annual Living History Field Day for September. Each year, area students come to the site to learn about frontier military activities, boarding school trades and American Indian culture.

On any given day, I can be found opening the gift shop, removing gophers from the parade ground, or answering a phone call about a relative who may have gone to school here in the 1920s. It certainly sounds hectic, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. The excitement and unpredictability I find out here at Ft. Totten, on the shores of Devils Lake, makes it one of the most exciting and worthwhile jobs to have.

Taking phone calls at Ft. Totten

Taking phone calls at Ft. Totten

One of the best parts of being a site supervisor is doing research. In my next blog entry, I plan to provide an in-depth look at what research goes into answering some of the fascinating questions on the history of the site. Until then, explore your surroundings.

Researching Ft. Totten

Researching the site history of Ft. Totten


Guest Blogger: Nick Gronseth

Nick GronsethNick Gronseth was a site supervisor at Fort Totten State Historic Site.