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 19,000-square-foot Inspiration Gallery: Yesterday and Today is one of three new exhibits that showcase the SHSND’s outstanding collections. It brings the story of North Dakota’s heritage up to the present day.
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 people across North Dakota.
Key messages in the gallery assert that the past provides a sense of continuity for North Dakotans to understand the present and speculate about the future, serving as a source of inspiration for the next generation even in times of uncertainty. There are key features of the North Dakotan experience, tied to geography and climate, which have shaped the state’s history and its people’s identity. North Dakotans are innovative and resourceful; they have and will continue to both shape and adapt to environmental conditions and societal transformations. 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.