Buffalo Museum lands national exhibit on bison

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The past, present and future of bison in America is a new exhibit on display at the National Buffalo Museum.

“Bison: The American Buffalo Then, Now, and Tomorrow,” is a former traveling exhibit developed by the Kauffman Museum of Newton, Kan., for the National Buffalo Foundation. The exhibit is expected to stay at the museum to the end of summer.

Ilana Xinos, National Buffalo Museum executive director, said the exhibit is a former National Endowment for the Humanities “On the Road” exhibit. She and Jessica Manson, National Buffalo Museum assistant director, attended the National Bison Association’s winter symposium last month in Denver. Xinos said they attended a National Buffalo Foundation Board of Directors meeting at the symposium, and the traveling exhibit was being discussed.

“We got a chance to talk to members of the board for the National Buffalo Foundation,” Xinos said. “They were talking about what they were going to do with the exhibit now that it was no longer traveling.”

Xinos said the National Buffalo Foundation didn’t have anywhere to store the exhibit. She said she and Manson were able to convince the foundation’s board to allow the exhibit to come to Jamestown. Xinos said two men from Kauffman Museum — Chuck Reiger, curator of exhibits, and David Kreider, museum technician — helped them ready it for travel.

“It all came together really fast,” she said. “We were supposed to fly back, instead we rented the truck, packed up the exhibit, and drove back to Jamestown.”

The exhibit was assembled at the National Buffalo Museum in time for a visit two weeks ago from Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

The exhibit focuses on some central questions about bison in the United States, like how did bison almost go extinct and how did the animal come back? Xinos said there has been an ongoing effort for over 100 years to re-establish the bison through the work of private groups and the national government.

Xinos said the National Buffalo Museum already has information about how bison were overhunted in the mid- to late-1800s. The new exhibit presents similar information, but in a more coherent manner.

“The exhibit is designed thematically; there is a flow to it,” she said.

Xinos said what she likes best about the exhibit is that most of the items are interactive.

“There are a lot of activities and interactive things that kids and people can touch and do,” she said.

She said she is very pleased with the exhibit as it is something new for people to see. The themes in the exhibit stretch beyond the Great Plains Indian culture.

“The exhibit also shows what the future of the bison industry will be,” Xinos said.

The traveling exhibit is based on an exhibit originally developed for the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Mont.

Xinos said this exhibit is an example of the kind of exhibit she would like to see more of at the National Buffalo Museum. She said she would also like to see the museum work more with other museums around the country to develop new exhibits.