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Saturday, April 18, 2020

Historical Society seeks help in documenting COVID-19

 
The South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre is seeking assistance in documenting how the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis is affecting people in South Dakota.  

South Dakotans are encouraged to submit their electronic writings, photos, artwork, short audio or video clips and other materials to the State Historical Society-Archives. A special digital submission page has been created on the State Historical Society website to make it easier for people to donate their items. Go to history.sd.gov/archives/covid19It is important to capture the ways we are experiencing this event, whether they be stories of loss and tragedy or stories of resilience, grace, and helpfulness,” said state archivist Chelle Somsen. “Future generations will thank you for sharing a part of your lives with them.”  

The State Historical Society has collected items documenting South Dakota’s history since statehood in 1889. Everyday activities, life-changing events, triumphs, and achievements are all recorded in the oral histories, newspaper articles, films, diaries, photographs, books, and artifacts that make up the society’s collections.  

“These items bring history to life and help students, scholars, historians, and lawmakers understand our past and learn from it,” said Jay D. Vogt, director of the State Historical Society.  

Vogt noted that, despite the fact that the Cultural Heritage Center, including the State Archives, is closed to the public until further notice because of the COVID-19 pandemic, society staff, mostly working at home, continue to collect, preserve, interpret, and promote the history of the people of South Dakota. 

For more information, contact the State Historical Society-Archives at 605-773-3804 or visit history.sd.gov/archives.

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About the South Dakota State Historical Society 
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing, and administrative/ development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Outlaw program set for Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre

PIERRE, S.D. – Pierre author Bill Markley will compare the lives of two of the most notorious outlaws in the American West in a Feb. 11 program at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. 

Markley is the author of “Billy the Kid and Jesse James: Outlaws of the Legendary West.” He will answer the question of which was the “biggest, baddest” outlaw at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Everyone is welcome to attend the free program, which is part of the History and Heritage Book Club. 

“Billy the Kid and Jesse James are two outlaws who never ride off into the sunset of our imaginations. Markley will compare the lives of the two men and tell which outlaw he believes left the biggest legacy,” said Catherine Forsch, chief executive officer of the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation. The foundation is the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society and the sponsor of the History and Heritage Book Club. 

Billy the Kid, 1859/60 – 1881, was a notorious gunfighter who was reputed to have killed at least 27 men before being gunned down at about age 21. Jesse James, 1847 – 1882, and his gang were responsible for more than 20 bank and train robberies and the murders of individuals who stood in their way.

“Billy the Kid and Jesse James” is Markley’s second book in the Legendary West series. He has previously spoken to the History and Heritage Book Club, most recently about the first book in the Legendary West series, “Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson: Lawmen of the Legendary West.”  

Markley retired from state government after working 40 years with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He re-enacts Civil War infantry and frontier cavalry and has participated in the films “Dances with Wolves,” “Crazy Horse,” and others. He is a member of the Western Writers of America and is a staff writer for WWA’s “Roundup” magazine. He also writes for other magazines and has written six nonfiction books and one fiction book. 

“Billy the Kid and Jesse James” is sold at the Heritage Stores at the Cultural Heritage Center and the Capitol, and online at www.sdhsf.org. 

People may participate in the program via the internet or by phone. Please call 605-773-6006 at least two days in advance of the program for more information. 

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About the South Dakota State Historical Society 
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing, and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information. 

About the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation 
The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation is a private charitable nonprofit that seeks funding to assist the South Dakota State Historical Society in programming and projects to preserve South Dakota’s history and heritage for future generations. 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

State Maps added to South Dakota Digital Archives

This undated map of the Black Hills Region
is one of hundreds now available online from
the SD State Historical Society-State Archives,
which provided this image.  Many thanks!
 PIERRE, S.D. -- The South Dakota State Historical Society-State Archives has added nearly 700 digitized maps and made them accessible online in the South Dakota Digital Archives thanks to an Outside of Deadwood grant from the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission.

Six hundred ninety-eight maps were digitized, cataloged and placed online as part of this grant. They are available at: https://sddigitalarchives.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/

The digitized maps include tourist maps, such as maps of snowmobile trails and maps of caves, maps of the Custer National Forest and the former Harney National Forest, as well as city plans of Sturgis, Custer and Rapid City. Maps of various South Dakota dams, American Indian reservations, highway maps and a few aerial photomaps were also included.

“The maps are from the archives’ collections and are very popular with students, teachers, researchers, authors, newspaper editors and general history buffs,” said Chelle (SHEL-ee) Somsen, state archivist. “Now these maps are available to researchers worldwide and not just to those who can visit the archives in person.”   

The South Dakota Digital Archives contains 80,589 items from the State Archives including photographic imagesgovernment and manuscript collections, land survey records, the South Dakota Historical Society publication “The Wi-Iyohi” and 1,289 maps.
For more information, contact the State Historical Society-Archives at 605-773-3804. State Archives hours at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. CST Monday-Friday and the first Saturday of most months.


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About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing, and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

McCann Miniatures on Display at Western Heritage Center


Len McCann lives in Florence, Montana.

 by Larry Miller
While Montana artist Len McCann (at left) wasn’t raised on a ranch, he hasn’t forgotten riding his first saddle horse on an Oregon ranch when he was five years old. 
The West is what I knew first,” drawls the 80-year McCann, speaking with a strong but subdued voice – sounding like a western character portrayed by Sam Elliott – and equally affable.
 The Old West is front and center in the superb collection of nearly three dozen miniatures that McCann has donated to both the Old Fort Meade Museum in Sturgis and the High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish.
My interest in donating this collection of my work is in seeing that it has a home where it will be displayed and cared for,” says McCann, “and I think I’ve found the ideal places.”
Some of the miniatures – created from a magical blending resin and epoxy – were inspired by old-time and contemporary personalities who left their marks on history.   From Robert E. Lee and Crazy Horse to Casey Tibbs.  And there’s recognition of Rodeo Cowgirls of the 1930’s.  A bust of General George Patton will grace the Fort Meade Museum, while a cutaway view of a bunk house is now on display in a High Plains Western Heritage Center exhibit.
These Len McCann miniatures were inspired by General Robert E. Lee (left) and the great
Sioux Chief Crazy Horse.  More than 30 "miniatures" are included in the McCann Collection.
Essentially, McCann’s collection of military miniatures, from Robert E. Lee and General Ulysses Grant and a range of others representing military troops, will be featured at the Old Fort Meade Museum.  American Indian and Old West miniatures – including rodeo pieces – will be highlighted in the High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish.
Artist Leonard “Len” McCann was born in Burley, Idaho 1939 to Paul and Mabel McCann, but the family soon moved to Butte, Montana where his dad, Paul McCann, worked as a miner.
The elder McCann was a World War I veteran and served in the Army’s 1st Cavalry after the war.  A generation later, Len McCann enlisted in the Air Force with stints at Keesler Air Force Base at Biloxi, Mississippi and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson.  
I was a Ground Control Approach Radar Operator.”  
Those military experiences – along with his abiding interest in all things western – likely influenced his enthusiasm for Old West Cavalry art. 
The desire to honor the service men and women who have given so much in the past and the present gives me the inspiration to depict soldiers of all eras.”
While I was growing up we lived a lot of places,” says McCann, “from Idaho and Montana to Oregon and Nebraska.”  After the Air Force, he settled in the Denver area.  That’s where, in 1961, he and his wife Barbara were married.   Len had a variety of jobs from school janitor to three years working for the Coors Brewery in Golden.
Using the G.I. Bill, Len enrolled at the Rocky Mountain School of Art in Denver, graduating in 1969 with an emphasis in commercial are – “but I never worked in commercial art.”   Instead, he signed on with Bunn Studios in Denver as a “preparator” for a couple of years.
We had some interesting projects, including the creation of 55 life-sized wax figures for the Country Music Wax Museum, which is housed in the Grand Ole Opry building in Nashville,” he remembers.
For about three and one-half years, McCann worked for the Natural History Museum in Denver.
But I quit the museum in 1975 and have been on my own ever since.”
Len McCann became a prolific sculptor, working in a variety of media, and on a variety of topics – but much of it focused on the old west and the military.
His sculpting ranges in sizes from miniature to life-sized.  His specialties include military history, equestrian subjects, and miniature one-of-a kind sculptures that combine media and “replicating accoutrements.”  Among the many public and private collections featuring his work is the U.S. Cavalry Museum at Fort Riley, Kansas, which owns and displays several of his bronzes.
It’s really the ultimate compliment to have exhibits at Fort Riley.”
Len McCann's life-sized bronze of General Patton.
McCann's wife, Barbara,  is in the background.
In November 1985, McCann’s life-sized bronze of General George Patton was installed and dedicated at the Church of Our Saviour Episcopal Church in San Gabriel, California.  The ceremony marked the 100th anniversary of Patton’s birth. It stands at the entrance of the church cemetery.  Land for the church was given by the Patton family.  General Patton is the only member of his family not buried in the cemetery.
While Len McCann’s superb work as an artist is well documented, he’s also recognized as an outstanding instructor.  For some 24 years he’s taught in the Adult Education program in Missoula.  
One student, Kathie Hackler of Danville, California – after taking Len’s horse sculpting class in Stevensville, Montana, said “I learned more from Len in one week than (I had) in twice-weekly classes for the last two years at home.”
McCann and his wife Barbara live in Florence, Montana, a small town about a 15-minute drive south of Missoula.  While their daughter Judith lives in Denver, son Phillip is just down the road a ways in Stevensville, Montana. 
Examining the meticulous accuracy of Len McCann’s work, Western Heritage Center director Karla Scovell observed, “I was blown away by his work.”   McCann’s western authenticity was summed up by Old Fort Meade Museum director Randy Bender –  He sounds like a cowboy.  He looks like a cowboy.”
We don’t know a cowboy who wouldn’t want to ride with Len McCann.
The enthusiasm of staff and volunteers at High Plains Western Heritage Center and the Old Fort Meade Museum is palpable.  Visitors will find inspiration in both the quality of McCann’s work, as well as for the era and cultures that captured McCann’s own heart and imagination as a boy growing up in the Old West.
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Take a peek at Additional Photos of Len McCann and his work.

About the "McCann Method of Miniatures"

Friday, November 8, 2019

Women's suffrage exhibit open until November 2020 in Pierre

The nationwide celebration of women’s suffrage continues at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre with the opening of a new exhibit.

Alice Paul, a national suffrage movement leader from New Jersey, unveils the ratification banner at the National Women’s Party headquarters in Washington, D.C., after the 19th Amendment was ratified. (Photo courtesy Smithsonian Institution)
The exhibit, located in the Observation Gallery on the second floor of the museum, is entitled “The Right is Ours: Women Win the Vote.” The exhibit provides an overview of the movement, led by three generations of women across both South Dakota and the United States to give women the right to vote in state and national elections. It focuses primarily on the period from 1848 through 1920, but it also addresses the legacy and lessons of the women’s suffrage movement to the present day.   

The exhibit, on display through Nov. 3, 2020, follows the multifaceted women’s suffrage movement from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 through the ratification of the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on Aug. 18, 1920. It also focuses on people and events in South Dakota that led to the state legislature granting women in South Dakota the right to vote in December 1918. The exhibit features historical photographs of people and events important to the movements, as well as reproductions of banners, hats, and other materials used by suffragists. 

“The topic of women’s suffrage is important to an understanding of both state and national history,” said Museum Director Jay Smith. “The State Historical Society is proud to assist the public in understanding how difficult it was to accomplish this goal and what a profound impact it had on American society – an impact that continues to be felt today.” 

Smith said museum staff plan to bring in a speaker in April 2020 from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to give a presentation on women’s suffrage and promote the exhibit.

The State Historical Society is honoring and interpreting the importance of the suffrage movement with several projects, including the publication of three books over three years, as well as a small display about suffrage hosted by the State Archives. 

“We are delighted to publish three books on suffrage through the Historical Society Press,” said State Historical Society Director Jay D. Vogt. “And we have a small pop-up display from the National Archives entitled “Rightfully Hers” that will be on display in our lobby through the end of the year.” 

The press publications include “Born Criminal: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Radical Suffragist” by Angelica Shirley Carpenter and “Equality at the Ballot Box: Votes for Women on the Northern Great Plains,” edited by Lori Ann Lahlum and Molly P. Rozum. Both books are available for purchase in the Heritage Stores at the Cultural Heritage Center and state Capitol. The third book, “The Voice of Liberty” by Angelica Shirley Carpenter and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, is due to be released in fall 2020.  

The State Historical Society is planning several other events in 2020 to continue bringing attention to women’s suffrage. More information on those events will be coming.

The museum is open from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1-4:30 p.m. on Sundays and most holidays. Call 605-773-3458 or visit history.sd.gov for more information about exhibits, special events, and upcoming activities.

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About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing, and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

From the slaughter of the Great Plains bison....to their return!

by Larry Miller

We've just completed reading a short (111 pages) fascinating book by Dan O'Brien entitled Great Plain Bison.  It concisely chronicles how the influx of European-American settlers in the Old West presaged the slaughter of the American bison.

It's estimated that 40 million to 60 million bison roamed the Great Plains at the end of the 17th century, but by 1900, there were fewer than 1,000.   

Today, that number has grown close to 500,000, thanks to folks like O'Brien and his wife, Jill.

Dan O'Brien is a wildlife biologist.  He and Jill operate the Cheyenne River Ranch – a 3,200-acre bison ranch – along the west edge of the South Dakota Badlands.  They raise only free-range, grass-fed bison.

O'Brien's book was published two years ago by the University of Nebraska Press.  NET, Nebraska's first-class public television network, produced the following short video about the return of the American bison:

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Cultural Heritage Center: More than a Museum


The Cultural Heritage Center is a magnificent building in Pierre. In its underground setting, South Dakota history has been carefully interpreted and the state’s historical documents and objects have been safely protected and stored for 30 years.


Gov. George S. Mickelson, First Lady Linda Mickelson and other dignitaries broke ground for the 63,000-square-foot center on May 1, 1987. It was completed in early 1989 and dedicated in November of that year as a lasting legacy of South Dakota’s centennial. South Dakota became a state on Nov. 2, 1889.
Many people associate the Cultural Heritage Center with a world-class museum, but it offers more than that. It houses a whole team of people dedicated to preserving South Dakota’s past in a variety of ways. 
As headquarters of the South Dakota State Historical Society, the Cultural Heritage Center houses administrative, research and publishing, archives, historic preservation, and museum operations. The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Society, also maintains offices in the Cultural Heritage Center. The Archaeological Research Center, operated by the State Historical Society, is located in Rapid City.
The South Dakota Historical Society Press publishes award-winning books on the history and heritage of the Northern Great Plains -- from scholarly works to picture books designed to engage children with the past. The Press’ biggest popular success thus far was the publication of “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder,” which made the New York Times Best Seller list.
The Press also publishes the State Historical Society’s journal, “South Dakota History,” which members of the Society receive quarterly.
The State Archives collects and makes available records which have permanent historical and research value. Genealogists visit the archives to use the records to learn their family history. Researchers and scholars use the archival collections to write articles, books and theses. Business owners, students and authors use historical photographs from the archives in their buildings’ d├ęcor, school projects and books. The records have also been instrumental in court cases, resolving land ownership disputes and ensuring that citizens receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
The archives contains 20,000 cubic feet of records, including private collections, state and local government documents, rare books, audio and video recordings, 1.2 million photographs, 12,000 maps and more than 2 million files of digital materials.
Business owners and homeowners sometimes have questions about their historic properties. “How can I protect my grandparents’ homestead from being destroyed?” “I hear preserving my old wood windows is better than replacing them with vinyl windows. Why is that and how can it be done?” “The porch on my 1932 house is collapsing. Do you have any money to help me fix it?” “Family stories say American Indians used to camp in what is now our pasture. Now some stranger wants to dig it up. What should we do?”
The State Historic Preservation Office or SHPO in the Cultural Heritage Center can help.
The SHPO implements the National Historic Preservation Act in South Dakota. The basis of the Act is the National Register of Historic Places, a program of the National Park Service which helps protect America’s historic resources. The SHPO staff helps owners determine if their property is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and, if so, can assist them in getting it listed. Those properties listed are eligible for a variety of financial incentives such as Deadwood Fund grants, the state property tax moratorium program and federal Historic Tax Credits.
SHPO is also responsible for protecting South Dakota’s historical properties and sites by reviewing any federal, state, or locally supported project which may have the potential to damage these important cultural and historical resources.
Most people think of the Cultural Heritage Center as the museum. It is the most evident aspect of the building. It features temporary exhibits in the Hogen and Observation galleries, along with the primary exhibit “The South Dakota Experience.” They bring to life South Dakota’s history from earliest inhabitants to current day. The museum collection contains more than 34,000 objects that focus on South Dakota’s history -- from the Great Sioux Horse Effigy to political buttons.
“History Explorer” backpacks for youngsters make for a fun, family-friendly museum experience. The monthly Family Fun Saturday programs are a way children and adults can come to the Cultural Heritage Center to make a history-related craft together.
Although the Cultural Heritage Center is in Pierre, the State Historical Society offers services throughout the state.  In addition to a catalog of books on South Dakota history, the Society presents off-site programming to groups and provides field service consultation and training for those needing professional assistance.  
Through www.history.sd.gov, nearly 35,000 photographs and maps are available on-line and instant access is provided to collection indexes.  Businesses, community groups and schools can rent suitcase education kits and traveling exhibits.  A fourth-grade South Dakota history curriculum is accessible at www.sd4history.com and is available to anyone interested in learning more about the state’s history.  
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This moment in South Dakota history is provided by the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. Find us on the web at www.sdhsf.org. Contact us at info@sdhsf.org to submit a story idea.

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