North Dakota State University history students will be on hand next month to help the Ward County Historical Society with archival and display work.
Angela Smith, a public history professor at NDSU, said this will be the fourth Public History Field School her students have done. In 2019, Smith and her students were at a museum in Fessenden; in 2017 at Linton; and in 2015 at Ellendale.
The work they will do at the Pioneer Village Museum in Burlington will be a bit different. At the other small-town museums, Smith said the students helped museum staff catalogue their historical treasures. The staff at the Pioneer Village largely know what they have and how to preserve it, but they are interested in learning how to present it to the public.
“We are going to focus specifically on interpretation,” said Smith, such as writing labels and creating explanatory posters about the different historical displays that help put it into context and tells a story about what it might have been like to live more than 100 years ago in Ward County.
“My students and I will be there for almost two weeks,” she said. “… In every town we’ve done this, it’s (been) wonderful. You get so much done in those two weeks because you have 15 people working on it for 12 hours a day
Smith said she has been impressed by all the historical society has accomplished, in its efforts to recover from the Souris River flood of 2011 and its move from the North Dakota State Fairgrounds to its new site at Burlington a few years ago. The students will also learn the history of Ward County before they travel to Minot.
The students who will receive class credit will do a week of training at NDSU in Fargo before they come to Minot. They will stay at the Minot State University dorms while they are taking part in the field school at the Pioneer Village Museum.
Bethany Andreasen, a history professor at MSU, had reached out to Smith and suggested the museum could benefit from a field school. Grants will provide money for some of the archival supplies and interpretive materials the work requires, and the museum has done some fundraising to cover the approximate $5,000 cost of housing, meals for the two weeks of on-site work, and some incidental costs. They will be in Minot from May 31-June 11.
Smith said she and her students will present a plan for their work at the museum to the historical society board and receive approval.
This is a partnership between the museum and the public history students, she said, and both will benefit.
Smith said she also plans to offer a genealogy workshop to the public during the field school. There will also be a personal archival tip session, and a historic photo scanning class. Smith said students have also recorded oral histories from residents during past Field Schools to help preserve precious stories. Students will give a presentation on June 11 to show off their work.