PIERRE, SD (KELO) — The Noem administration wants to renovate and modernize the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center.
The museum and collection housing thousands of historic artifacts will have to close during the work, State Historical Society Director Ben Jones said Wednesday.
The contents of the museum and the collection of the center would be transferred to other storage spaces in stages and would gradually return.
The target date for reopening the structure to the public, Jones told the house education committee, is in time for the 125th anniversary of the state of South Dakota in 2026.
The centre, which is built into the side of a hill much like the Arikara people used to do, opened to the public in 1989, coinciding with the centenary.
But the design has since caused problems for the structure of the building.
The committee approved the project on Wednesday and proposed HB 1047 to the House Appropriations Committee for a decision on funding.
For the project, the state Department of Education, which oversees the State Historical Society, is seeking $8,881,785 in general funds and approval for an additional $3,301,800 from other sources, mostly through the fundraising by the company’s non-profit foundation.
Private donations and fundraising paid for the museum’s exhibits in the center’s first 15 years of operation, Jones said. He described the building as “iconic” and said the museum attracted 16,000 visitors last year.
Among the archival holdings is the original manuscript constitution of South Dakota. Jones showed the committee some models of the new exterior look, as well as photographs of the 32-year-old building regarding its wear and tear, such as cracked walls from settlement, piling through the ground, and a variety of other issues.
To modernize the building, the plan calls for a new Arikara-style pavilion to be added to the front and serve as an education hall; bring the parking lot closer; installation of two sidewalks, one with steps and the other with a flatter slope for ADA accessibility; redo the central roof; and make numerous changes to the interior, such as adding a mezzanine for storing more artifacts, converting an unused room, and repurposing one of the two unloading bays.
How long the facility will be closed to the public will depend on the pace of fundraising, Jones said. Representing Sam Marty, R-Prairie City, asked a question a long-time rancher like Marty would naturally have about what happens when the ground moves against load-bearing walls: “How are they going to rectify that again?”
Jones said the consultancy, ISG, was considering putting a foot more space between the surrounding hill and the walls. Marty asked what would fill the space.
“I don’t know the answer to that question,” Jones replied.
Representing Sue Peterson, R-Sioux Falls, asks where the other funds will come from. Jones said $250,000 came from the museum’s account which receives funds from the state tourist tax, with the remaining more than $3 million coming from donations.
Peterson also questioned the 10% allowance for “soft costs” in the plan. Commissioner for State Administration Scott Bollinger said indirect costs cover work not related to construction, such as concrete testing. The amount designated for soft costs varies, Bollinger said, “depending on the complexity of the project.”
Bollinger added that the building rests on the stone shale and has already shown movement, and the project aims to stop the movement. He said ISG is a regional company, with an office in Sioux Falls, which the state government has used before, and ISG brought in another company with experience designing museums. .
The bill received only favorable votes from the committee. “Our story deserves to be told and preserved,” said the representative Will Mortenson, said R-Pierre. “Our State History Museum should also be a destination.”
Peterson called the upgrades and maintenance “long overdue” and backed the concept, while suggesting home owners could dig deeper into the estimates.
She also praised Jones, who moved to the post of principal and state historian in December 2020, having started as education secretary when Kristi Noem took over as governor in January 2019.
“I believe Dr. Jones is the right person to lead this effort,” Peterson said.