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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

Exhibit Development at Fort Totten State Historic Site

Work is nearing completion on restoration of the historic hospital/cafeteria at Fort Totten State Historic Site. Throughout the winter of 2017 we’ve developed, designed, and installed new exhibit spaces throughout the building. Agency staff members have been hard at work for several weeks customizing the exhibit display booths and preparing objects for exhibition. Interpretation themes for visitors to explore include the frontier military hospital and industrial boarding school cafeteria as well as the extensive collections of the Pioneer Daughters of the Lake Region who have occupied the building since 1960.

When we last left off, the exhibit cubes were under construction (blog.statemuseum.nd.gov/blog/totten-restoration-update). The past few weeks have been spent outfitting the individual spaces and tailoring them to themes related to the Pioneer Daughter’s collections including military, Victorian era clothing and accessories, pioneer kitchen accessories, farm tools, and toys from the turn of the century.

Outfitting exhibit cube with 1870-era wood siding

Fort Totten site supervisor Kyle Nelson outfits one of the exhibit cubes with 1870-era wood siding sourced from his family’s original homestead in Nelson County.

Preparing military uniform for exhibit

Historic Sites Manager Guinn Hinman (right) works with volunteer Alison Hinman (Dickinson Museum Center) on preparing a military uniform for exhibit.

Exhibit showcasing dress uniform

The completed exhibit—showcasing the dress uniform of H.M. Creel who founded Devils Lake.

WWI artifacts

World War I artifacts housed in the vast collections of the Pioneer Daughters of the Lake Region being assessed and prepared for exhibition.

Preparing to install large graphic

Ramone Gumke of Newman Signs (Jamestown) prepares to install a large graphic depicting a turn-of-the century printing press in an exhibit cube at the hospital/cafeteria at Fort Totten State Historic Site.

Some of the completed exhibit cubes

A view of some of the completed exhibit cubes in the west wing of the hospital/cafeteria at Fort Totten State Historic Site.

The Grand Opening for the hospital/cafeteria and re-opening of the museum of the Pioneer Daughters is scheduled for May 20, 2017. Stay up to date on the restoration process and see more photos on the Fort Totten Facebook page: facebook.com/FortTottenSHSND

Update on hospital/cafeteria restoration at Fort Totten State Historic Site

The past few months have seen many developments on the restoration of the historic hospital/cafeteria at Fort Totten State Historic Site. When we last left off (http://blog.statemuseum.nd.gov/blog/totten-restoration) contractors were beginning to install a new HVAC system and starting an electrical overhaul. Adding central air and heat to the building was a much needed update to properly house and display the historic collections of the Lake Region Pioneer Daughters.

Contractors began the extensive process of running duct work throughout the basement in the summer of 2016. The stone foundation, built by soldiers almost 150 years ago, is made of solid granite. In two separate places, contractors spent many hours drilling through the walls of the foundation to further the reach of the air flow system. This was a delicate and challenging process.

As the HVAC system installation was underway, the electricians completely rewired the building—running new wires and installing new outlets throughout. The interior was then scraped and painted, the original hardwood floors refinished, and the first floor windows restored.

Exterior windows being painted

Contractors paint the exterior of windows that have recently been restored at Fort Totten’s historic hospital/cafeteria.

Most recently, work began on the exhibit “cubes” that will house the Pioneer Daughters collections. Each exhibit space will detail a different theme and part of the collection. The cubes have the flexibility to be changed each season, if desired, and offer greater security and protection to the artifacts on display.

Exhibit cubes being built

The exhibit “cubes” in the process of being built in the historic hospital/cafeteria at Fort Totten State Historic Site. Each cube will house a different part of the Lake Region Pioneer Daughters collection.

Once the cubes have been completed, work on exhibit development can begin. Throughout the winter, State Historical Society staff will carefully assess the collections and begin the lengthy process of cleaning and preparing artifacts for display. The completed hospital/cafeteria will also tell the story of the different uses of the building throughout its history—detailing its use as frontier military hospital, a tuberculosis preventorium, and a cafeteria for the industrial boarding school for American Indian children.

Learn more about Fort Totten and follow the site on Facebook for more restoration updates.

Painting wainscoting

Site Supervisor Kyle Nelson and Assistant Site Supervisor Lisa Alberts hard at work painting the wainscoting in the hospital/cafeteria at Fort Totten State Historic Site.