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.

Bismarck’s 150th Anniversary Celebrated in New State Archives Exhibit

Summer is in full swing here in the State Archives, and patrons are busy engaging with our collections to answer their various research questions. This year also marks the 150th anniversary of Bismarck’s founding. To celebrate the occasion, the Archives reference team took on the task of selecting photographs from our collections to be part of a new exhibit in the corner of the reading room dedicated to former State Archivist Gerald Newborg. We affectionately call this space the “Newborg Nook.”

This space has two chairs and serves as a quiet place for people to sit and take in the reading room, as well as browse our selection of periodicals. It is also a space where small, temporary exhibits are put up to invite visitors to learn more about the topics covered in our holdings.

Prior to the new exhibit, this area hosted an exhibit on the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women full suffrage in the United States. In considering what should go up in this space next, the Archives reference team concluded that the 150th anniversary of Bismarck was timely and would allow us to highlight photographs and other materials from our collection that deal with the city.

We went through our digitized images on Digital Horizons and our Photobook site and narrowed these down to our favorite ten. We also reflected upon what was significant to include in terms of local landmarks. Thus the former and current Capitol buildings, the Northern Pacific rail bridge, the Bismarck Civic Center, Kirkwood Mall, downtown, and residential scenes all found a place in our narrative. The resulting exhibit illustrates how Bismarck, initially named Edwinton, has changed over time and captures the richness of 150 years of history.

Andrew Kerr, one of our new media specialists in the Audience Engagement & Museum Department, worked his magic and put many of the images and captions onto large wall stickers that make the wall pop. This colorful design, featuring the palette used for the city’s 150th anniversary celebration in the spring, also included some mounted images to give the exhibit three-dimensional characteristics. Andrew did a great job with the installation, and it looks amazing.

This collaborative effort resulted in a cool little exhibit you will want to check out when visiting the reading room and features some books on Bismarck from our collections, including The Bismarck-Mandan Encyclopedia and the three-volume series Bismarck-Mandan Memories, that you can read while relaxing in the space. Be sure to check out the exhibit while it is up and keep an eye out for future exhibits in the space in coming years.

Marking Women’s History Month in the Archives

March is Women’s History Month. What better way to celebrate than to explore the State Archives’ collections on the prominent women connected to North Dakota. These collections include journalists, pioneer settlers, and trailblazers in the political history of the state, as well as the records of organizations devoted to women. All make the State Archives a great resource for researching women’s history, especially for students considering a possible National History Day project.

One of the eminent women with North Dakota ties who has a collection of materials housed in the Archives is Era Bell Thompson. Thompson grew up in Driscoll, where her family was the only African American family in the small community. She attended the University of North Dakota and Morningside College in Iowa, later becoming an editor at Ebony, the magazine devoted to Black culture and issues.

A white man in a dark suit, white button up shirt, and diagonal striped tie who is wearing dark rimmed glasses has his arm around a black woman wearing a short sleeved dress who is holding folders. Behind them are posters hanging on a wall.

Era Bell Thompson and Jack Vantine at the Ebony magazine offices in Chicago, November 1972. SHSND SA 11118-00013

The Era Bell Thompson Papers (MSS 11118) at the Archives contain one foot of material related to Thompson’s life and work. Correspondence, family-related materials, some photographs, as well as tribute items, clippings, and published articles showcase a life well lived. Among her accolades, she received the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award in 1976.

Another great resource for women’s history is the Alice Kennedy Dahners Papers (MSS 11083). This collection was Dahners’ contribution to the North Dakota Federation of Women’s Clubs Pioneer Mother Biographies project. The project chronicled the stories of married women who lived in North Dakota prior to 1889 through handwritten or typed biographies. This material enriches our understanding of women’s lives during the territorial and early statehood period as well as the struggles these pioneers faced.

Women who have participated in the North Dakota political scene are also represented in the Archives’ holdings. One example is the Nielson Family Papers (MSS 10107), which contain the papers of Minnie J. Nielson, who served as state superintendent of public instruction from 1919-1927. Nielson’s election to that office was remarkable, given that she was the only candidate not supported by the Nonpartisan League (NPL) to win when the NPL swept all other statewide elections in 1918. Her rise to the position is significant because it came at a time when women were mostly shut out from positions of leadership in American politics.

Head and shoulders portrait of a woman with short, dark hair

Minnie Jean Nielson portrait. SHSND SA 00117-00032

Minnie and her sister, Hazel, were both involved in their community, serving with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, as well as being active in several organizations, including the American Legion Auxiliary, the North Dakota Federation of Women’s Clubs, and Delta Kappa Gamma, a society for women educators. The collection contains materials related to Minnie’s service with the Public Instruction Department and her later work with the Teachers’ Insurance and Retirement Fund, which also makes it a great resource for people researching education in North Dakota.

Organizations for women are another important focus of our collections. Researchers can access several organizational record collections in our holdings on women’s groups. One of these is the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of North Dakota Records (MSS 10133). The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is a major organization devoted to abstinence from alcohol and was one of the groups involved in the passage of the 18th Amendment, which ushered in Prohibition in the United States.

The WCTU collection includes records related to annual conventions, local chapters, promotional materials, scrapbooks, audiovisual materials, and other items pertaining to its activities in North Dakota. One item in the collection, shown below, is an August 12, 1892, letter written by Frances Willard, national president of the WCTU. In the letter, penned shortly after the death of her mother, Mary, Willard expresses her gratitude to members for the assistance they provided during a difficult time.

A letter that reads: Out of a heart full of lore and sorrow I send tender. Grateful acknowledgements to Zach and everyone who, by word, message or deed helped me to know, in the greatest loss any life can be called by to endure shall to heavenly stars shine out as soon as it is dark enough. May God bless each and all prays. Frances Willard . Aug 12, 1892.

SHSND SA 10133-p01

As you can see, all of these diverse collections are wonderful resources for learning about and researching women’s history in the State Archives. If you are a student, or know a student interested in women’s history and looking for a National History Day project, consider having them check out our holdings and drop by to do some research. With Women’s History Month upon us, let us use this time to reflect on the contributions women have made to the history of our state and nation.

Remembering Halloween in the Archives

October is a time of transition. As the air becomes crisp and harvest concludes the growing season, the last gasps of summer give way to occasional early reminders of the coming winter.

The month is also special for the State Archives because it is American Archives Month. To celebrate, the Archives has provided a variety of content for the State Historical Society of North Dakota’s Facebook page, including a virtual scavenger hunt, our Ask-an-Archivist panel, a Feature Friday, where we highlight the collections our volunteers are working with, and a blog post from fellow Reference Specialist Ashley Thronson.

With Halloween approaching, it is a great time to examine some of the archival holdings related to the holiday and how it’s been celebrated over the years. Photographs are one of the best resources to explore the past, providing a visual example of societal differences then and now. We have several examples illustrating how previous generations experienced Halloween. Note the photo below of a Brownie troop sporting their costumes for a Halloween party in 1947. Their happiness at the occasion is evident, and their costumes are largely homemade.

many children and a few adults are dressed up in Halloween masks

Brownie troop Halloween party in 1947, Williston. SHSND SA 10958-025A-000-00019

Do you remember the delight of annual Halloween parties in your classroom at school, receiving candy and other treats, often having a day of fun activities, or perhaps a movie or a play, and maybe being permitted to wear your costume to school? Generations of schoolkids enjoyed this pastime. While the costumes have certainly changed, as have the treats, the excitement remains.

9 children are dressed up in halloween costumes. The front three are dressed as witches and sitting on broom sticks.

Students in costume for a Halloween play. SHSND SA 11225-0008-000-00110

Despite the kids’ somber looks in the above picture, one imagines they had a fun day at school back around 1920. What stands out in this group photo is the three children in the front row dressed as witches. The kids were in costume for a Halloween class play, but it is unknown what play they were performing. In looking at the types of costumes, visions of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” come to mind, as the book had been published in 1900, or perhaps the spooky “Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Three students stand at the front of a classroom dressed in Halloween costumes.

Students Richard Vennie, Laurie Bengenheimer, and Jacalyn Wrangham don their Halloween costumes for class in October 1960. SHSND SA 00080-box03-folder26-00012

Likewise, the above 1960 photo from the Bismarck Tribune Photograph Collection shows kids in their classroom dressed up for Halloween. Notice again that the costumes appear homemade. The seated kids appear to be working on art projects as part of the lesson.

The 1966 image below from the William E. “Bill” Shemorry Photograph Collection shows a large class of happy kids posing with their treat bags, either before or after their Halloween party. What is interesting is that the kids are not wearing costumes. This might reflect social norms for dress in school at the time, which may have frowned upon children wearing costumes. It also could be due to the timing of the day Halloween fell on. Whatever the reason, their bright smiles evoke thoughts of children excited to engage in trick-or-treating.

Many students stand and sit in the front of a classroom holding bags of goodies

Happy schoolkids pose with their treats in this 1966 Williston classroom photo. SHSND SA 10958-023G-000-00050

Halloween also can bring joy to those suffering in hospitals, as folks attempt to brighten their days by delivering treats when they otherwise are unable to participate in activities. One great example is that of former North Dakota first lady Betsy Dalrymple, who is pictured below bringing candy to a young boy in Sanford Hospital in 2012. The photo is part of her papers, one of two state series in the Archives related to the office of the first lady of North Dakota.

An adult woman sits on a hospital bed where a young boy lays with his hand wrapped. She is handing the woman is handing the boy a small treat bag.

Then-North Dakota first lady Betsy Dalrymple visits children in Sanford Hospital on Halloween 2012. SHSND SA 32404-00694

Halloween is an exciting time, and sometimes the weather here in North Dakota also makes it an interesting evening for the parents and kids scurrying about for candy. Folks may recall warm evenings, or snow and bitter cold heralding a potential long winter on the northern Plains. Reflect upon your past Halloweens and think about what stands out to you. Was it a special time of trick-or-treating with friends or with parents, attending a party, or having a fun day in school?

As we conclude American Archives Month, we hope you have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

Rallying a Nation to War: Exploring the State Archives’ World War I Poster Collection

A poster with the headline North Dakota in World War. Other text on the poster is Official War Pictures of State Troops at Ft. Lincoln and in France - See Your Boy March by on the Screen. There is also a headshot of a man in uniform who is labeled as Col. John R Fraine.

This undated North Dakota Council of Defense poster advertised “official war pictures of state troops at Ft. Lincoln and in France.” SHSND SA 10935-P0217

This April marks the 104th anniversary of the United States’ 1917 entry into World War I. While the commemoration of that conflict’s centenary is already part of history, it does not mean that interest in World War I has ceased, as researchers still request materials on the conflict or attempt to find out about ancestors who served in the war.

One of the State Archives’ unique collections features hundreds of WWI posters. This collection contains 921 posters, including some from overseas, which were collected during the final two years of the war by Melvin Gilmore, curator of the State Historical Society of North Dakota from 1916–1923. The posters fall into a number of distinct thematic categories, including recruiting efforts, Liberty Loan campaigns, wartime propaganda, supply drives, and patriotic appeals. The poster styles vary from simple textual or artistic designs to poignant illustrative works of art. Given that print media was the dominant form of information dissemination at that time, these posters represent an important link to the past. Many of these posters are digitized and viewable on our Photobook site.

Each branch of the U.S. armed forces during the war created posters to entice young men and women into service. While women’s opportunities to serve were limited compared to today, efforts were made to reach them as well. Nursing was one avenue by which women were recruited into the war effort. In addition, imagery of women was used in some recruiting posters, portraying them often in the role of helpless victim or appealing to the perceived protective impulses of young men.

Army poster that reads the following: Just a Minute. U. S. Army offers excellent opportunities for men enlisting now. Choose your branch of service - all branches open. Infantry, cavalry, field artillery, coast artillery, engineer corps, quartermaster corps, medical dept., motor transport corps, air service, tank corps, signal corps. Enlistments are for 1 and 3 years. Men with former service may enlist for 1 year, others 3 years. No Reserve. Men between ages 18 and 40 wanted. European service available if desired. Apply Army Recuiting Station, Hatz Block, Aberdeen, South Dakota, or Sioud Falls, S. D., Lead, S.D., Fargo, N. D., Grand Forks, N. D., Minot N. D. Open days, nights, and Sundays.

A U.S. Army poster listing service opportunities and recruiting stations in North and South Dakota. SHSND SA 10935-P0064

The first poster has an American bald eagle fighting with a large black bird with airplanes around it and reads Join the Army Air Service be an American Eable! Consult your local draft board, read the illustrated booklet at any recruiting office, or write to the chief signal officer of the army, Washington D.C. The second poster has two soldiers, one standing with binoculars, and the other crouching by him, with an airplane above them and reads Join the Air Service and SErve in France. Do it now.

This U.S. Army Air Service recruiting poster, left, drew on visceral imagery of an American bald eagle attacking a “German” eagle to promote enlistment. At right, a poster aimed at bolstering the U.S. presence in France. SHSND SA 10935-P0189, SHSND SA 10935-P0305

A soldier stands in uniform with gun in hand up by his shoulder. Behind him is an American Flag. The poster reads First in the Fight - Always Faithful - Be a U.S. Marine! Apply at 24 East 23rd Street, New York City

The heroic U.S. Marine was front and center in this poster designed by James Montgomery Flagg, creator of the iconic “I want YOU” recruiting poster. SHSND SA 10935-P0346

A woman in a Navy Uniform stands next to text reading Gee!! I wish I were a Man. I'd Join the Navy. Below that test reads Be a Man and do it United States Navy Recruiting Station.

One of the most famous images from the era, this Navy recruiting poster played on traditional notions of masculinity, using an image of an attractive young woman in a sailor’s uniform to goad men to join up. SHSND SA 10935-P0277

Poster with a nurse sketched in the middle of it. Above her reads Wanted 25000 Student Nurses. Below her reads U.S. Student Nurse Reserve. Enroll at the nearest recruiting station of the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense.

It wasn’t just soldiers who were in demand—the nation also needed nurses to tend to the wounded as evidenced by this U.S. Student Nurse Reserve recruiting poster targeted at women. SHSND SA 10935-P0028

In addition to the armed forces, service organizations actively tried to acquire new members to aid in their war-related efforts. These groups included such organizations as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the U.S. Boys’ Working Reserve, which aimed to offset war-related labor shortages and provide farm labor to help increase agricultural production. Many of these organizations’ campaigns appealed to the patriotism of Americans, as evidenced in this pair of posters below.

The first poster has two soldiers in full cear with one saluting as the other walks out of a hut. Above them are silhouets of other soldiers in the distance. The poster reads The Salvation Army - Help them to help our Boys. The second poster reads Boys! Serve Your Country on the Farms. Join the U.S. Boys' Working Reserve. U.S. Department of Labor. Apply. Earn a Badge of Honor. Behind the text is an image of a man working in a field with two horses pulling a till that he is holding onto.

Left: SHSND SA 10935-P0554
Right: SHSND SA 10935-P0071

Several posters in the collection also urged the purchase of Liberty Loans and Victory Loans. These programs were bond issues by the Treasury Department meant to encourage those Americans not off fighting in the war to invest in the country’s success by buying government bonds, which funded the war effort. Such posters featured explicit visual appeals to Americans’ sense of patriotism and justice, drawing on imagery of suffering women and children to pull at the heart strings. Most were quite artistic, though some were simple in style.

The first poster shows a woming holding a baby with another young child pulling at her wait. The poster reads Must Children Die and Mothers Plead in Vain? Buy More Liberty Bonds. The second poster shows a person wearing what looks like an American Flag toga, holding a gold shield with an eagle emplem, and wearing a crown. In fron t of the person is a young boy down on one knee in a Boy Scout uniform holding a sword. The poster reads USA Bonds. Third Liberty Loan Campaign. Boy Scouts of America. Weapons for Liberty.

Left: SHSND SA 10935-P0001
Right: SHSND SA 10935-P0022

Poster with a thick blue border followed by a thinner white boarder surrounding a red background with a blue letter V outlined in blue

The visuals may have been simple but there was no missing the overarching message of this striking 1919 poster advertising Victory Liberty Loans, the final bond drive of the war. SHSND SA 10935-P0209

In addition to the loan drive posters, several in the collection speak to the prevalence of wartime propaganda intended to mobilize support for the Allied cause or stoke fear of the enemy. Germans were portrayed in starkly negative ways, with some posters warning of the dangers of loose lips. Our collection also comprises foreign language posters including some in Czech and French.

Two of the same poster are shown, one in English and the other in French. They show two men, one in a German military uniform holding a torch in one hand and a blood knife in the other, and the other man is in a business suit holding a hat in one hand and a briefcase in the other. The poster reads Remember! This hun who bombed, burned and pillaged and this commercial travaller who calls for your orders wants to sell his wares and wants to settle once more in our midst are one and the same man never forget it! When the war is over we shall make it our business to let you know what is Made in Germany

French and English versions of this poster played on stereotypes of German barbarism to discourage consumers from buying German-made products after the war. SHSND SA 10935-P0773

As the war neared its end, the world was gripped by the Spanish flu pandemic so some of the posters in the collection also relate to the global health crisis and government efforts to deal with it. This event exacerbated the suffering of many nations, which had already lost so much in people, property, and goods during the Great War.

Poster that reads the following. Treasury Department, United States Public Health Service. Influenza - Spread by droplets sprayed from nose and throat. Cover each cough and sneeze with handkerchief. Spread by contact. Avoid crowds. If possible, walk to work. Do not spit on floor or sidewalk. Do not use common drinking cups and common towels. Avoid excessive fatigue. If taken ill, go to bed and send for a doctor. The above applies also to colds, bronchitis, pheumonia and tuberculosis. F. R. Smyth, Assistant Surgeon, United States Public Health Service, Bismarck, N.D.

This U.S. Public Health Service poster urged Americans to take precautions in the fight against the Spanish flu pandemic. SHSND SA 10935-P0200

As you can see, the World War I poster collection is a fascinating set of print media from a bygone era, offering a glimpse into the artistry and messaging surrounding a historic world event. You can browse the digitized images of these items on our Photobook site from home, or when you are researching in the reading room during our open hours.

State Archives Adjusts to Life During a Pandemic

Winter is upon us, and the holidays are in full swing. At the State Archives, we have had to make some adjustments to the reading room because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers will notice several changes to procedures since the State Archives reopened to the public in late June. So far, folks seem to have adjusted well.

The biggest change is in access and hours. Before the pandemic, we were open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., unless it was a holiday. Since reopening, our hours as well as those of the larger North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum have adjusted, with the State Archives open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month. We use our time at work before and after opening hours to prepare for the day and take care of email requests.

In addition to shortened hours, access to the reading room is by appointment only, with visitors capped at no more than six at any given time to maintain social distancing. Researchers are requested to contact us ahead of time via email at, or by phone at 701.328.2091, to schedule an appointment. This has worked well in most cases, and we have only hit maximum capacity a handful of times.

A small table with a black form fitting cloth over it sits beyond an open door. There is a map and a sign saying Please Wait Here sitting atop the table.

Visitors to the State Archives must now wait at the entrance for a member of the reference team to come and speak with them.

Social distancing has also necessitated some changes to the reading room beyond shortened hours and limited capacity. We have had to shift equipment and furniture to maintain spacing for the safety of our visitors. The result is reduced technology available for researchers. Prior to closing for the pandemic, we had six microfilm readers/printers and six computers available for research. In order to space everything out to maintain the recommended six feet of distance, two of our microfilm readers/printers are no longer accessible to the public. Meanwhile, four research computers along the windows are available for use. To date, it’s the microfilm readers most likely to be at capacity.

A row of gray filing cabinets line the right side and tables with computers, printers and scanners line the left side.

The number of available microfilm readers has been reduced due to social distancing measures.

Square wooden tables line a wall with windows. A matching chair sits with each desk. On top of each desk is a computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

While our research computers were much closer together before the COVID-19 closure last spring, we do like how the current spacing gives patrons a little more privacy, too.

Access to our materials has also changed since reopening. While our microfilm is still self-service, before the closure patrons would leave the film on top of the cabinets for staff to put up at the end of the day. Now we have patrons place used rolls into a white box. Used microfilm is held for 24 hours before we return it to the cabinets. In addition, our physical collections, such as manuscripts and state government records, require a 24-hour notice, so we can pull them down for quarantine. Researchers wanting to look at collections need to plan in advance because we are no longer able to pull materials the same day.

Two square wood tables with two chairs each and three rectangle wood tables with two to three chairs are shown spaced apart for social distancing.

Tables in the reading room are spaced to ensure proper social distancing is maintained.

A red card on wheels is shown in the middle of wooden tables and chairs and bookcases filled with books.

When they are finished, patrons must now leave books on the red cart so that staff can quarantine the materials.

In addition to these measures, we sanitize the equipment after each patron has used it to ensure a cleaner environment. We also have hand sanitizer placed around the reading room. As is the case in the rest of the Heritage Center, masks are required for visitors. Compliance with and understanding of the various changes has been positive, with folks happy to have us open again. As always, we continue to provide remote reference services via email and phone.

A black cart on wheels is shown with a brown cover over it and a reindeer head sitting atop it with a red draped cloth with bells to look like a reindeer.

Olive, the other reindeer, unofficial holiday mascot of the State Archives, was the creation of retired State Archivist Ann Jenks.

Finally, with the holiday season upon us, our mascot, Olive, the other reindeer, has taken up residence in the reading room to guard it and ensure folks adhere to the new rules. While it has been an adjustment for us as well, we are making the best of a unique situation while continuing to provide the valuable services of the State Archives. Have a wonderful holiday season and a safe remainder of the year. Here’s hoping 2021 will see an end to this pandemic.

Archives Adventures During Telecommuting

Summer is here, and there have been several changes of late. The biggest change has been the COVID-19 pandemic and adjusting to working from home for two months. As a reference specialist, I assist researchers in accessing the materials they need to answer their diverse questions. Being unable to access our physical materials because of the closure limited me in how quickly I could respond to requests, but our amazing patrons have been very understanding. That said, this situation presented me with opportunities as well. I entered data on a couple record groups when not handling the requests that could be answered with our online resources.

The first group of records I worked with were marriage records from Oliver County dating from 1896 to 1925. Marriage records are a popular request among our patrons, as genealogical research represents a sizable amount of our research requests. Most such requests revolve around naturalization records, marriage records, and obituaries.

You can learn much about an area from a group of marriage licenses. Seeing several licenses of the same last name for the groom or bride indicates a fairly large family lived in that area, and the children were settling down. Since these licenses spanned 1896-1925 with most being in the 1905-1920 time frame, which coincided with a sizable wave of immigration into North Dakota, several folks applying for licenses were possibly either new immigrants themselves, or the children of immigrants to the area. One interesting pattern appeared in that men with the same last name, who are assumed to be brothers, seemed to marry sisters of a family. This likely relates to immigration patterns, where several families from a community overseas will migrate to a specific location in the United States.

scan of a marriage license

Marriage licenses from this time also note locations that are now memories in a county. Several unique locations were noted on the licenses for the place of marriage, with many being, according to Doug Wick’s book North Dakota Place Names, rural post offices in the various townships. In addition, they clue us into the differences in society at that time, especially the fragility of life, as there were a few licenses that have the same man marrying more than once. While divorce is a possibility for why the first marriage ended, life expectancy was much shorter at that time. With events like the Spanish Flu pandemic, other diseases, and the risks of death in childbirth, an untimely death for the spouse is also a possibility. Seeing these licenses made me wonder about the situation that caused the groom to remarry so soon after seeing an initial license bearing his name. Did he leave his wife, did she leave him, or did she die in an unfortunate situation? As the data entry was paramount on the group of licenses, this question could only be pondered for a moment.

scan of a marriage license

One unique challenge to these licenses is those filling them out had handwriting that left much to be desired. This is one of the challenges when transcribing older documents and records for data entry, or to just understand the document better. Several times during the data entry for these licenses, consulting Census records via Ancestry was necessary to try to decipher a name, especially in circumstances where initials were used (usually the husband’s) instead of the full first name. This was a minor issue, but one that is worth noting. Overall, the addition of the data on these licenses will enhance ease of access to these records for our patrons in the future, as such records are quite popular.

The other group of records I am working with during this time away from the office is the facsimile files. These binders contain photocopies that allowed patrons to look at our photograph holdings before we began the digitization process. Information about the photo, including collection number, item number, a description of the photo, and, if known, the donor is noted. I am working with photos of schools arranged by county. Most are of rural schools and are roughly 100 years old.

There are some cool photos in these binders. The most unique was a photo from Valley City High School in 1905 described as “Boys Toilet Room.” Yes, someone took a photo of the interior of the boys restroom in Valley City High School in 1905. Fortunately, it appears it may be either related to the construction of the school or done at a time when nobody was in the building. It made me chuckle though and think of the popular rock song “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.”

While working from home has been an adjustment during these unique times, data entry on both the marriage records and facsimile files will provide greater access to our materials in the future. It will be nice to return to the North Dakota Heritage Center more often to catch up on requests and to help the public with their research questions. Someday, archivists will preserve and process material related to this time and helping researchers to answer questions about 2020, and there will be many. Have a safe and happy summer.