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Jessica Ballou, Published June 24 2012

Heritage Center officials in Fargo today to get public feedback on project

FARGO – Officials from the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck will visit the Plains Art Museum tonight at 7 to get public opinions on the center’s $51.7 million expansion.

The project involves adding about 97,000 square feet to the existing building with new workspaces, labs and exhibit galleries, the latter of which will cost $7.7 million.

Museum Division Director Chris Johnson, who is heading the exhibit construction of the expansion, said they are bringing preliminary conceptual designs so the public can see where they’re heading and indicate what sort of exhibits they would prefer.

“We certainly want people to see what we’re doing and be excited about it,” he said.

The group will also travel to Grand Forks on Tuesday, Jamestown on Wednesday and Bismarck on Thursday. Berg said suggestions from the meetings will be considered before the exhibit construction is completed by November 2014 for the state’s 125th anniversary.

The building construction started in March 2011 and should be completed by March 2013. After that, the exhibition will be built.

Claudia Berg, who is heading up the construction portion of the project, said one driving force of the museum will be the Hub of History, a station of eight interactive kiosks with tourist and educational information to direct people throughout the state.

“If you wanted to learn more about aviation history, there will be spots here to direct you to the Fargo Air Museum, for example,” Johnson said about the hub. “Or if you’re interested in ranching and cowboys, we’d have ways to direct you out to Medora and the Cowboy Hall of Fame.”

Berg said the building is almost fully enclosed, and an Indiana limestone façade will be put on shortly, matching all of the buildings on Capitol grounds.

In a few months, construction will begin on a Northern Lights Atrium, which will be a large glass box with screens on the top with lights projected on them.

Three big galleries will be constructed between May and September of next year: the Adaptation Gallery, a 5,000-square-foot exhibit focusing on geologic history; the Innovation Gallery, an 8,000-square- foot exhibit focusing on North Dakota’s early peoples; and the Inspiration Gallery, a 19,000-square- foot exhibit focusing on 1860 to present time.

There will also be a Governor’s Gallery with 5,000 square feet of space to be used for traveling exhibits.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jessica Ballou at (701) 241-5509