When the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND) embarked on an expansion of its Heritage Center, the project included a complete redesign of the permanent exhibitions that interpret more than 500 million years of North Dakota’s history and unique environment. The 8,000-square-foot Innovation Gallery: Early Peoples is one of three new exhibits that showcase the SHSND’s outstanding collections. It tells a story that spans more than 12,000 years of North Dakota history, from the prehistoric to the modern Native story.
Great Plains Exhibit Development Joint Venture, comprised of Xibitz, Lord Cultural Resources and Taylor Studios, worked in collaboration with stakeholders from the museum, the architect and the general public to bring this exhibit to life. In addition, the vision for the gallery was confirmed by consultation with Native people across North Dakota from five different tribal groups.
Key messages in the gallery include information about North Dakota’s Native Peoples as the state’s first cultural and technological innovators; how they adapted to a changing environment and successfully met challenging social and political encounters; and their importance in the state’s social, political and economic fabric. In exploring these topics, the Innovation Gallery: Early Peoples preserves, celebrates and expresses this diverse cultural heritage. By using the latest in visitor interpretive techniques, showcasing inventive media and establishing new and exciting public and educational programs, the exhibition experience also fulfills one of the institution’s primary goals: to create a sense of pride in a shared past and an excitement for the future.