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South Dakota ag museum hosts educational exhibits with regional ties

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- The South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum that houses the Lee Sudlow Extension Service photo collection is a museum in itself -- well worth a stop off Interstate Highway 29 for anyone interested in agriculture.

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The South Dakota State University Agricultural Heritage Museum in Brookings is housed in the historic Stock Judging Pavilion, built in 1918 and restored in 1925, when a meats laboratory was added. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)

BROOKINGS, S.D. - The South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum that houses the Lee Sudlow Extension Service photo collection is a museum in itself - well worth a stop off Interstate Highway 29 for anyone interested in agriculture.

The SDSU Stock Judging Pavilion building was erected in 1918 and the college meats instruction laboratories were added in 1925. The building was used for their initial uses until the late 1970s when SDSU built a new animal science complex.
The old SDSU pavilion, accepted into National Registry of Historic Places in 1980, is deeply rooted in the state’s agricultural psyche, especially any Baby Boomers educated at the state’s land grant university. It’s where university faculty conducted animal husbandry classes and the SDSU Saddle and Sirloin Club first conducted its annual Little International student animal fitting and judging competitions.
The museum is dedicated to preserving, interpreting and collecting the history, science and culture of agriculture in the state, says director Gwen McCausland. The original artifact collection started in 1884 - first as a zoological collection. The museum moved around from building to building on campus, and in the 1960s sharpened its focus on agriculture.
Region’s history
Housing the museum since 1977, the exhibit space includes 3,000 square feet that once was the main livestock arena, which now holds tractors, steam engines and other implements, including an authentic homesteading claim shanty.
The museum is in the process of expanding its science of agriculture exhibits to explain the domestication of plants and animals, McCausland says.
A smaller gallery is designed for temporary exhibits. The museum typically trades rotating exhibits every three months or so, with varied topics from the region.
Most recently, “Bittersweet Harvest,” a Smithsonian Institute traveling exhibit on the bracero program of migrant workers was highlighted. Braceros have a history in South Dakota during World War II, working in sheep shearing, and grain and sugar beet harvests.
Another popular exhibit called “Chores” was based on the newspaper series of editorial cartoons by the late Bob Artley, a beloved artist who worked for the Worthington (Minn.) Daily Globe newspaper, and author of the iconic “Memories of a Former Kid” series about farm life from the 1930s to the 1950s.
McCausland, who has been in her position since May 2014, says the museum is a unique place and a regional treasure.
The daughter of a veterinarian in Enderlin, N.D., McCausland grew up as a member in 4-H clubs and graduated from North Dakota State University in Fargo. She worked at Bonanzaville, a heritage museum in West Fargo, and the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, Minn., before taking her position in Brookings.

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“In our industry there aren’t a lot of young people in it. I like the fact that there are a lot of young people in agriculture here,” he said of the Mitchell area.