Black Hills Mining Museum to get national conservation support

The Black Hills Mining Museum’s collection of mining equipment, memorabilia, and documents preserves the community’s rich mining history. Pioneer photo by Al Van Zee

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LEAD — The Black Hills Mining Museum is getting some assistance from an important national source of information and guidance.

The museum announced that it is one of 75 institutions around the country picked to take part in the Collections Assessment Program (CAP). The program is administered by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC).

The program will help the museum organize its collections care efforts in the coming years by analyzing the site to identify conservation priorities.

An assessment team made up of two professionals will visit the museum for two days. The team will consist of a collections assessor and a building assessor and will meet with staff to formulate plans to improve the care and maintenance of the museum’s collections.

“What we’re looking for in this program is to establish a long-term goal for the museum,” said Todd Duex, president of the museum board of directors.

“It’s an honor to be selected as one of the 75 institutions participating in the CAP program. We look forward to using this assessment to improve our long-term preservation efforts for the artifacts housed at the museum,” said Duex in a printed statement.

The Black Hills Mining Museum was founded 30 years ago as the mining industry in the area was at its point of maturity. The industry was already over a century old when local residents began to think about preserving the cultural heritage as well as the economic history of mining. The museum was considered to be one way to do that.

“It is dedicated to preserve the history of the mining industry in the Black Hills region,” said Duex.

And it’s also intended to pass on the cultural and human narrative. The museum was established to tell the story of the people who worked in the mines.

“This is dedicated to those miners,” he said.

The Homestake Gold Mine was the biggest employer in the region for most of the 20th century.

“It was one of the leading institutions in the settlement of the West,” said Duex. “It was the main economic driver in the Black Hills.”

The bulk of the items displayed in the museum came from Homestake. The museum has a lower level that duplicates the shafts, drifts, and caverns of the old mine, and features lifelike figures engaged in various activities that were required to operate the enterprise.

The museum is a nonprofit organization with tax-exempt, educational status. It has a board of directors consisting of seven members, and a staff of seven people. It also has dozens of volunteers that work during the tourist season.

No schedule has yet been set for the visit from the assessors, and a precise dollar amount for the cost of the analytic assistance has not yet been determined. But the staff at the museum hope that such details can be worked out by mid-June.

The foundation programs work through a cooperative agreement with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that formulates grants for such public organizations.

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