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.

What is a New Media Specialist?

I often get asked what I do for work. If I say new media specialist supervisor people tend to look at me with a blank stare. I then briefly explain what my team and I do to help them get an idea of the scope of our work. I’ll break down the main areas below.

We are responsible for keeping the agency’s websites updated. This includes not only content but also Drupal updates. What is Drupal you ask? Drupal is the content management system (CMS) most of our websites use. I recently spent many of my days and nights Drupaling. This was due to a major Drupal upgrade that required recoding our websites. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I now know what a Twig file is, and it has nothing to do with a tree.

This code snippet is what makes the menu work on the State Museum website.

We design many, many graphics in all different forms, from ads to brochures and flyers to billboards to PowerPoint presentations to exhibits to store merchandise to publications to digital signage and everything in between. Have you seen the Fashion & Function: North Dakota Style exhibit at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum? The logo, all the fabric walls and information panels for each section, exhibit card, ads, and video wall graphics were designed by our team of new media specialists.

This photo of Fashion & Function showcases some of the graphic elements we designed for the exhibit, including fabric walls, rail panel, and logo. On the far right side you can also see part of an upright panel.

Social Media
Some people think social media is just about creating posts, but there’s a lot more to managing these accounts. It also means adding events, responding to messages, monitoring comments, and reviewing insights and stats for posts to see how well they did so we know what content interests our followers. It requires striking a careful balance of posting enough but not too much.

Photography is a big part of our job here. It seems like there’s always something that needs to be photographed, both for marketing and archival purposes. If a new exhibit goes up, we take pictures. If an object needs to be photographed, we take pictures. If we have an event, we take pictures. You get the point.

This is one of my favorite photos and not just because it’s of my niece. We’ve used it in ads with the headline “Anything is fossil-ble.”

Video Production
It seems we are doing more video production every day. We take care of everything involved in video production from start to finish. This includes helping write scripts when needed, hauling equipment, lighting, filming, scanning or photographing items to include, editing the video and audio, captioning, and exporting the final video to the necessary format. Our YouTube channel includes many of the videos we’ve produced.

At the moment, we are working on a fun animation project and plan to do more in the future. One of our animations shows the ground sloth Megalonyx transforming from its skeleton to how it likely appeared with an overlay of fur. This helps people visualize the animal beyond the fossil. We also animated the logo for Fashion & Function to look like a neon light turning on since the sign in the exhibit is neon.

There are other odds and ends that we do as well, but these are the main duties we take care of while also staying on top of design trends and incorporating them into our work. I love the variety my job offers each day and never have to worry about being bored!

Documenting the MHA Nation: Marilyn Cross Hudson Collection Opens to the Public

Here at the North Dakota State Archives we are thrilled to announce that a lifetime of research and writing by tribal historian Marilyn Old Dog Cross Hudson has been processed and is now open to the public. The collection includes research, manuscripts, articles, working and subject files, historical records, photographs, and other materials created or collected by Hudson. Major subjects include tribal and oral histories of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, as well as stories of Native American veterans, rodeos, and ranching, and of the Cross family. The collection also features records, histories, and photos of Elbowoods High School and the city of Parshall, North Dakota, Hudson’s home from 1953 until her death in 2020.

In this May 25, 2015, article from the Six Star Observer, Marilyn Hudson wrote about the names of World War II servicemen recorded in the Elbowoods Community Hall. Hudson, a prolific author, conducted extensive research for her published work. Both her sources and final articles are included in the collection.

Central to the collection are records of tribal, state, and federal government proceedings related to the construction of the Garrison Dam and its impact on the MHA Nation. The collection chronicles all stages of the project, from initial planning to completion of the dam. Significantly, it documents a wide range of efforts to stop the project, which necessitated the flooding of homes and farms and the relocation of hundreds of families. After the dam’s completion, Hudson carefully recorded its long-term effects on the people of the Fort Berthold Reservation.

One of many documents in the Marilyn Cross Hudson Collection that preserves the record of Garrison Dam opposition, this booklet was produced by the Fort Berthold Indian Defense Association in 1946 to galvanize resistance and encourage further study. SHSND SA 11517-0001-040-00001

Hudson’s collection represents the most comprehensive series of tribal records at the State Archives and includes the correspondence and writings of Martin Cross, Marilyn’s father and long-time tribal chairman and council member. Bringing the historical documents to life are photographs, oral histories, and published articles by Hudson about life in the Missouri River bottomlands before the construction of the dam and after the flooding of the area.

Among numerous topics, Hudson’s collection documents Elbowoods High School activities and student life, including the 1951 Elbowoods Warriors High School basketball team. Back row (left to right): Eldon Jones, Leander Smith, Larry Rush, Norman Baker, Arnold Charging, Tony Mandan, and Coach Richard Washington. Front row (left to right): Leroy Yellowbird, Leonard Eagle, Russell Gillette, and Evan Burr Jr. SHSND SA 11517-00009

Born in 1936 in Elbowoods, Hudson graduated from high school there in 1953. Her college education and professional career took her across the country until she accepted a position with the Bureau of Indian Affairs working at the Fort Berthold Agency and returned to North Dakota. Hudson retired from federal service in 1992 but stayed active in cultural and historic preservation as well as in the promotion of the state. She served as administrator for the Three Affiliated Tribes Museum in New Town and received the North Dakota State Historical Society’s Heritage Profile Honor Award in 2009. Hudson’s legacy in the state endures through her writings, organizational work, and the memories of those who had the privilege to know and work with her.

Hudson collected historical photographs as well as more modern images in her quest to document events for posterity. Pictured here on All-American Indian Day in New Town, North Dakota, are Martin Cross, Sam Meyers, and Mary Louise Defender. The two men on the far right are unidentified. SHSND SA 11517-00045

Hudson’s passion and love for the history of her people and state is reflected in the breadth of topics she researched and wrote about and in her meticulous gathering of primary and secondary sources. Her collection provides insight into the experiences and lives of members of the Three Affiliated Tribes and is an invaluable resource for current and future generations.

Members of Elbowoods High School’s Class of 1947 at their graduation (above) and at their 50-year reunion (below). Hudson thoroughly documented the people, places, and events in her collection to preserve history. SHSND SA 11517-01043-01044

The public can view the collection at the State Archives in the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum in Bismarck. For more information, contact us at