South Dakota State Historical Society Museum

The South Dakota Experience recreates the cultural history of South Dakota in three sections that comprise our Primary Gallery.

Beginning with the stories of Native Tribes that inhabited the land that became known as the state of South Dakota and following the state's history into the 21st century, the exhibit provides unique opportunities to learn about and enjoy the rich heritage and complex history of the state.

The Primary Gallery follows a circular around surrounding the Mavis T. and Florence Brown Hogen Gallery, which serves as our rotating and temporary exhibition gallery.

About the Museum

Oyate Tawicoh'an

The Ways of the People

In the language of the Oceti Sakowin, the nation some call the Sioux, Oyate Tawicoh'an means "The Ways of the People." In developing the gallery, historians and museum staff collaborated with Native American people to create this section of The South Dakota Experience.

Four large cases speak to core values (Kinship, Courage, Fortitude, Wisdom, and Generosity) and beliefs of the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota people, while vignettes depict a buffalo hunt in progress and life on the plains in a tipi. Visitors should be sure to walk through the tipi and also listen to explanations of Oceti Sakowin values as told in the Dakota, Nakota and Lakota dialects, as well as in English.

Proving Up

"Proving Up" was a five-year legal process that homesteaders had to complete to establish ownership of their tract of land under the Homestead Act of 1862.

The Proving Up section explores the state's history from the placing of the Verendrye Plate by the earliest known French explorers in 1743 to the final fight for the state capital in 1904. Share the adventures of explorers such as Lewis & Clark. Follow the experiences of early trappers and frontier soldiers and journey with settlers who came to Dakota from many parts of the world, including those from the eastern United States. See how miners discovered great mineral wealth on and below the surface, transforming the Black Hills. Learn how statesmen, such as the state's first governor (Arthur C. Mellette), established the state of South Dakota.

While South Dakota was booming for her newer arrivals during this period, it was a time of great turmoil for the state's Native American people. A section of the gallery includes a conversation about the Wounded Knee Massacre and the trials of reservation life for Native Americans.

Along your journey, be sure to ride in a recreated rail car, step into a sod house, pilot a steamboat, and watch films that help explain historical events that shaped the Dakota Territory and what became the state of South Dakota.

Changing Times

South Dakota in the 20th Century

This section of the primary gallery examines the changes and challenges South Dakotans experienced during the 20th century. The state flourished when rail lines and automobiles rolled in and struggled when the Depression hit. Throughout the early 1900's some settlers left, but many dug in and developed roots still seen today.

Among the topics explored in this section is the development of community life including the establishment of an educational system from primary school to public universities. Visitors can also witness the development of the tourism industry and the creation of Mount Rushmore. Technological advancements such as windmills and the development of rural electrification also impacted the state in a variety of ways.

Visitors are encouraged to try their cow milking skills in a competition against a modern machine in an interactive game that all ages enjoy. Take a peak in a general store and walk through a house like those purchased from a Sears catalog, then check out a 1930s era gas station. Among the displays are artifacts used by South Dakotans during 20th century military conflicts. Several films and audio interactives address many of the historic events that occurred that helped shape South Dakota as we know it today.

Take a Tour

Take a mobile tour of select artifacts from our galleries.

Start the Tour

Brown Hogen Gallery

Marvis T. and Florence Brown Hogen Gallery

The Marvis T. and Florence Brown Hogen gallery serves as the temporary gallery for the Museum, and it features exhibits ranging from furniture to pheasant hunting. Most of the exhibits featured in the gallery are produced by museum staff, though occasionally it is used for traveling or rented exhibitions produced by other museums or exhibit companies. Museum staff changes the exhibits in this space every nine to eighteen months depending on the topic. The museum staff works to ensure that repeat visitors have something new to see every time they come to the Cultural Heritage Center.

Presently on Display:

  • Furniture: The Fancy and The Functional - closes February 9, 2014

Upcoming Exhibitions:

  • Transformation and Continuity in Lakota Culture: The Collages of Arthur Amiotte, 1988-2014 - opens April 19, 2014
  • Play Ball! The National Pastime in South Dakota - opens October 24, 2014

The gallery was named for Marvis T. Hogen and his wife Florence. Marvis Hogen was a well-known businessman from Kadoka who served three terms as a member of the South Dakota House of Representatives and two terms in the senate, before being appointed Secretary of Agriculture by Gov. Bill Janklow in 1983. The civically minded Hogen was also a World War II veteran who served on the Steering Committee that raised funds for the development of the Cultural Heritage Center.

Observation Gallery

The Observation Gallery is so named owing to the windows that provide an amazing view of the environment surrounding the Cultural Heritage Center, including the Capitol and its campus, the Missouri River, and Hilger's Gulch. The gallery can be accessed by stairs through an entryway immediately adjacent to the Mine in the "Proving Up" section, or by elevator located in the corner of the "On the Reservation" section of the Primary Gallery.

The Observation Gallery is a changing exhibit space dedicated to telling the many stories that can be seen outside the window. The next exhibit, scheduled to open in April 2014, is entitled South Dakota Environments and it will look at the environment and landscape of South Dakota across time. Exhibits in the Observation Gallery will change approximately every 24 months. The gallery space may also be used for small meetings or programs that are typically scheduled weeks in advance.