By Rachel Carter
The Heritage Center, which sits on the state Capitol grounds in Bismarck and serves as North Dakota’s state history museum, is undergoing a $52 million expansion and renovation. The first of four new galleries is set to open September 1, said Kim Jondahl, communications and education director for the State Historical Society of North Dakota, which runs the museum.
The entire museum closed last fall, although construction began before then, and the September opening will include a new entrance; the lobby, hallway exhibits; a new museum store, cafe, theater, events center and plaza; and a renovated auditorium.
The first phase of new gallery space will also make its debut September 1. Exhibits in “The Adaptation Gallery: Geologic Time” will feature life-size casts of dinosaurs and show how North Dakota was covered by an inland sea in prehistoric times.
Three additional galleries will open in stages until the entire project is complete in November 2014. When the Heritage Center reopens, the total museum space will have nearly doubled to 39,000 square feet.
“This is basically like a brand-new attraction that’s opening,” said Camie Lies, communications manager for the Bismarck-Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Another favorite site for groups is the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. The fort was once a key military and trading post, and it was from there that Custer led troops to fight the combined forces of the Lakota, Arapahoe and Northern Cheyenne tribes in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Custer’s house and portions of the military post have been reconstructed.
Lies said visitors also love the park’s On-A-Slant Indian Village, a collection of re-created earthen lodges that were used by Mandan Indians who lived on the site from the 1500s through the late 1700s.
Other favorite group attractions in Bismarck and Mandan include the state Capitol, the Lewis and Clark historical sites and the riverboat cruises on the Missouri River.