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Museum open house to feature work of NDSU field school

A special museum open house will showcase the hard work by the graduate and undergraduate students of the NDSU Public History Field School. The event is scheduled Saturday, June 8, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Wells County Museum in Fessenden, North Dakota.

The project to update the museum is headed up by Angela Smith, NDSU associate professor and public history director. Typhanie Schafer, a volunteer consultant, is an NDSU graduate who recently earned her master's degree in public history from Middle Tennessee State University.

The open house will be followed by a showing of “1898-1899 North Dakota Goes to War,” a documentary created last fall by Smith and her students that tells the story of North Dakota’s role in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. The 40-minute film follows the 1st North Dakota Volunteers on their journey to the Philippines and how North Dakota citizens helped bring them home.

The students arrived in Fessenden May 28, and got into the work.

“The Wells County Museum has done a good job through the years. We are here to help breathe new life into the museum by finding and telling new stories,” said Torie Jones, a graduate of NDSU’s public history program who will soon begin graduate studies. She is project manager for the field school and a fourth-generation native of Fessenden.

“Our main goal is to start a collections inventory so the Historical Society knows what they have. On display is everything from uniforms and wedding dresses to threshers and tractors,” Jones said. “We are working on new interpretations and labels throughout the main museum building.”

The team also will begin the digitization process of historical photographs and documents.

Greta Beck, a sophomore in anthropology and public history from Minot, North Dakota, said she is looking forward to giving back to the residents of Wells County. “It’s good that we can do this here, not just for Fessenden, but for all the towns in the county,” said Beck, who also has done work at the Sargent County Museum in Forman, North Dakota. “We can preserve many of their artifacts for coming generations to document the history and to prepare the museum to carry it forward."

Other students who are participating in the field school are Chelsea Olmsted, a third-year public history graduate student from York, Nebraska; Kaitlynn Anderson, a second-year anthropology graduate student from Brown Summit, North Carolina; Ben Haney, a senior in public history from Albert Lea, Minnesota; Tim Niday, a junior in history from Becker, Minnesota; and Oliver Sime, a senior in public history from Fargo.

Funding was provided, in part, through a grant from Humanities North Dakota and also donations from community members.

This is the third time Smith has led a field school, beginning in 2015 in Ellendale and continuing in 2017 with Linton.

“Our goal is to partner with the community and take students into Wells County where they can contribute to the preservation, conservation, and collection of local history,” Smith said. “It’s a hands-on learning experience for students, and the community has a stake in it.”

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North Dakota State University
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