High Plains Western Heritage Center offers an authentic look back at the American West
30 years after opening, the High Plains Western Heritage Center features a 5 state regional museum, preserving history with a rich archive of authentic artifacts.
SPEARFISH, S.D. — The Black Hills are rich with history. A region that was a unique intersection of nearly every culture and economic circumstance that shaped the American West.
Don Petersen, volunteer for 12 years, says “I like the history and you never know who is going to walk through the door. We’ve had relatives of a lot of the people that are represented here. You know you get in an area like this and there is just so much history right outside your door.”
Two area ranchers, Harry Blair and Edgar Gardner, are considered the Founders of the Center. It was founded to preserve the past, and inform the present through the collections, archives and events.
Mildred Halsey, volunteer for 17 years, says, “You just have to know your background, to know where you came from, because it’s inside of you from your parents and your grandparents. And it’s a learning experience and you never outgrow that. They aren’t just people who settled in Spearfish, it’s a cross section of many cultures. “
Mick Harrison, Board of Directors President and Artist, says, “We’ve got history for one thing; its got a ton of things for people to go through.”
Six categories are honored in the museum, pioneering, cattle and sheep ranching, rodeo, transportation, American Indians and mining. It boasts a wide range of artifacts that some can remember as a child and some are seeing for the first time.
Marguerite Kleven, volunteer for 15 years, says, “You’ll see around here, especially we are sitting in front of the sheep wagon, which is one of my favorite areas in museum. They take these wagons out for the summer, you know they would stay out there all summer long, the rancher would bring the supplies out to them, so they would have their horse and their dog and they would come back in in the fall. It’s pretty unique, it seems to have all the things, necessary, and I kinda call it the first RV.”
Comedic musician Gary Mule Deer hosts fundraising events for the Center, as his dad was a big supporter of the museum — the Bruce Miller Theatre was named after him. Mule Deer says, “Dad, just put everything into it, he loved it here, it’s turned out to be a pretty amazing museum. People have no idea until they get up here and started looking around and see all the history.”
The Center sees thousands of visitors from all over the country, mostly in the summer months — connecting the past to the present.
Click here for more information on the Center or the upcoming Veterans Day Event.