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.

The State Historical Society of North Dakota has over 14 million artifacts in its museum, archives, and archaeology collections. That’s a lot! To showcase more of these, we’ve started a new video series called “Our Heritage.” Each month’s video features artifacts related to a prominent North Dakotan, historical topic, or related theme and are presented by a member of our staff who’s an expert on or has a passion for the subject.

Our Heritage is typed over many historic images from North Dakota.

Our first video, which premiered in January, focused on Fannie Dunn Quain, North Dakota’s first licensed female physician. Sarah Walker, head of reference services in the State Archives, pulled the Fannie Dunn Quain papers from the collections to discuss and show who this trailblazer was.

Next up was a two-part video with Security Supervisor David Schlecht highlighting some of the firearms in the museum gun vault. This represented just a small sampling of the more than 500 firearms in our gun vault. We feel very lucky to have a Smith & Wesson Model 320 Revolving Rifle with a 20-inch barrel since only about 244 of these were ever made.

April’s video was very timely and my personal favorite so far as I had no idea at least three passengers on the RMS Titanic had ties to North Dakota. Here, Head of Reference Services Sarah Walker tells the stories of Ole Ableseth, Herbert and Carrie Chaffee, and Johannes Nysveen. An audio clip from Ole Ableseth talking about his experience on the Titanic will be sure to pull at your heartstrings.

Our newest video, scheduled to be published May 21, features Captain Joseph Enright, the officer credited with sinking the largest warship by a U.S. submarine. Learn more about Enright from State Historical Society Director Bill Peterson and see some of the pins he received for his service in the U.S. Navy.

We really enjoy making these videos and hope you enjoy watching them and learning more about our collections. See the videos at We won’t tell you what videos are planned for the next few months, but we will say one will be with multiple people from different departments within the agency discussing artifacts related to the chosen topic. It will be a great collaboration!