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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!

Guinn Hinman's blog

AmeriCorps Volunteers Help Out at Fort Totten

On September 15, 2018, a team of AmeriCorps volunteers arrived at Fort Totten State Historic Site. The team, comprising eight volunteers aged 19 to 25, originated from all over the United States. Tasked with cleaning out the historic gymnasium in preparation for restoration, the team members got to work almost immediately.

AmeriCorps team members

AmeriCorps team members upon arrival, posing in the auditorium at Fort Totten State Historic Site.

Created in 1993, AmeriCorps is a federally funded volunteer program that sends teams all over America to complete their mission of “helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.” The process of acquiring an AmeriCorps grant and team began back in 2016 with several meetings between State Historical Society staff and AmeriCorps leaders. Upon acceptance, the staff of Fort Totten began preparations for the team’s arrival. The team would be staying at the Totten Trail Historic Inn, a Victorian-themed bed and breakfast operated by the Fort Totten State Historic Site Foundation and housed in the former Officer’s Quarters on the grounds of Fort Totten State Historic Site. Accustomed to sleeping outside and in church basements, the team rejoiced at having their own bedrooms and bathrooms for the duration of their visit.

AmeriCorps team members in hazmat suits outside gymnasium

Team members pose outside the gymnasium during clean-up.

Fort Totten staff slated 2-3 weeks for the gymnasium cleanup and were amazed when the project was completed in just five days. The team members then moved onto a lengthier project — the rehousing of the museum collections of the Lake Region Pioneer Daughters. You may remember from my previous blogs that the State Historical Society has made the restoration of the historic hospital/cafeteria a priority in the last few years. The historic hospital/cafeteria at Fort Totten has been home to the Lake Region Pioneer Daughters and their collections since 1960. Since the massive overhaul and restoration of the building, completed in 2017, the collections were housed in boxes throughout the basement of the building and accompanying buildings. AmeriCorps was tasked with combining the collections from multiple buildings, removing the objects from unsatisfactory boxes and housing, placing them in archival, acid-free boxes, and adding object tags with accession numbers to the items and boxes. Team members spent almost three weeks working on this project and were fascinated by the many treasures discovered in the vast collections.

AmeriCorps team members rehousing collections

Americorps team members rehouse the Lake Region Pioneer Daughters collection in the historic hospital/cafeteria at Fort Totten State Historic Site.

The experience of working with AmeriCorps was phenomenal and one we hope to have again. The young people involved were truly committed to public service and strengthening communities. We’re very excited to see what becomes of these young people and what they choose to do with their lives after AmeriCorps.

New Programs out at State Historic Sites!

Scattered all across the state, in almost every corner, our historic sites have something fun to offer for everyone. In addition to preserving and interpreting the history of these great places, we also offer dynamic educational programming for all ages. The summer of 2018 has seen two new programs take off –the Cycling History Highways series and the Junior Sheriff program at the Stutsman County Courthouse State Historic Site.

Cycling History Highways is a series of bicycle rides throughout the summer that merge cycling with historic tours and activities. On June 30, cyclists were treated to a guided tour of Chief Looking’s Village in Bismarck by Doug Wurtz, member of the North Dakota Archaeological Association. Cyclists then departed for Double Ditch Indian Village State Historic Site, with a unique water break at a tipi along the way. Upon arrival, the group partook in Native American games, atlatl throwing, and an interpretive tour.

Cyclists riding by Double Ditch Indian Village State Historic site with the Missouri River in the background

Cyclists enjoying the view near Double Ditch State Historic Site on June 30

Two more rides are scheduled for the summer, with a Cold War themed ride planned for July 28 near Cooperstown and a ride from Fort Clark State Historic Site to Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site near Stanton on September 22. Cold War riders will be given guided tours of the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site, including the Oscar Zero missile alert facility and November-33 launch facility, before proceeding on to other Cold War sites. For the final ride, cyclists can immerse themselves in the historic world of the early American fur trade, joining Historical Society staff for guided tours and activities at both sites.

For more information and to pre-register for Cycling History Highways, please visit: history.nd.gov/cycling

In addition to cycling around historic sites, history enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy the Junior Sheriff program at the historic 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse—our newest addition to the historic sites lineup. Hopeful Junior Sheriffs can test their wits as they explore the oldest courthouse in North Dakota. Participants will answer questions, solve puzzles and record their answers. The new Junior Sheriffs will be sworn in and received their official badges! Appropriate for all ages, the Junior Sheriff program at the courthouse is a fun and free activity to try.

Junior Sheriff Notebook

The official Junior Sheriff notebook and badge

For more information on the Stutsman County Courthouse State Historic Site and all of the events on schedule this summer, please visit: facebook.com/1883Courthouse