Better know your leaders: Dan Ingram
Name: Dan Ingram
Hometown: Born in Des Moines, Iowa, and grew up in Ottumwa, Iowa.
Position with the city: Dickinson Museum Center Coordinator
For how long: 2½ years
When did you move to Dickinson? May 2011
What are some of the historically significant things about Dickinson that you didn’t know before you became the museum director? What I didn’t know about Dickinson could fill a number of books and does. I had read about the connection with Theodore Roosevelt, but didn’t realize that his first public speech was in Dickinson. I was fascinated that the city was named for someone who had never lived here, and streets like Villard were named for railroad executives, rather than presidents of the United States. I was amazed at how slowly paved streets came to the city. I was equally amazed that the city has produced as many Rhodes Scholars as it has — at least four by my count — an impressive achievement. I didn’t know that ceramics and briquettes were once important industries in the community, or that Dickinson had its own refinery. The number of things I did not know are countless, what I did know was that the community’s history is worth preserving and interpreting for current and future residents and visitors.
Have you found any surprises in the photo digitization project? I think the greatest surprise is the high quality of the images that were created by the various photographers, whether it is a glass plate negative by Herman Breum of a family taken on their farmstead, or postcard images by Ralph Doubleday, cityscapes and portraits by Ingemar Prestus, or the impressive work of the Osborn or Horstman Studios; the region was blessed with talented photographers. I think another surprise is the support and interest the public has shown for the project. Helping us to scan and catalog the images, donating funds for supplies and equipment for the project, and sharing their memories of the photographs, unlocking the mysteries of the images. We had a series of images of the Esquire Club showing Mike Kelly, the owner of the club at the time, standing in front of it with scores of cases of liquor. Mike was able to share with us the backstory of the photo. In other cases we have images that are still a mystery. One glass plate negative from the Osborn Studio in the early 1920s shows two men wearing “witch hats” — we have no idea what the story is on this image. We put a new image on our Facebook page each week and have been overwhelmed by the response. People from all over the country, many of them expatriates from Dickinson, comment on their memories of people, places and things that are pictured. I had no idea of the importance of the Woolworth’s store in local culture until we put an image of it on Facebook and memories of the escalator, cheesecake and shopping downtown flooded the comments. The photographic collections of the Stark County Historical Society and the Joachim Museum are going to be the lasting resource for telling the story of our community and the region for the 20th century and it important that we do this work now to collect, scan and catalog these images while the folks who were there are still with us.
What would you like people to know about the Museum Center? The Dickinson Museum Center is an irreplaceable cultural resource for the community and its visitors. In the next few years, we will be upgrading our efforts to preserve and interpret the history of the region. The Joachim Museum is open year-round, and offers exhibits and programming throughout the year. It is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Labor Day to Memorial Day and seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Pioneer Machinery Museum and the buildings in the Prairie Outpost Park are open during the summer season from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Museum Center is a partnership of the Joachim Museum, the Stark County Historical Society and the City of Dickinson. The Joachim and the Historical Society collect and maintain object and archival collections that document life in southwestern North Dakota and these collections continue to grow each year. We invite people to visit our website,www.dickinsonmuseumcenter.com or the Dickinson Museum Center Facebook page.
Is there anything Dickinson residents should know about their city’s history? I think it goes without saying that history is the story of change. As our community continues to evolve, it is important for us to document and remember what came before. We are currently in a period of rapid change as the community grows and its focus changes. It is not only important for natives to remember, but we must engage new residents with our history. Dickinson began as a railroad town, with the focus of the community along the Northern Pacific Railroad. As the focus of transportation changed from railroad tracks to the interstate, the city expanded to the north and west. As we continue to grow, we need to pause and learn from the past, so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Understanding our history can help shape the future of our community.
If you could meet any historical figure from Dickinson’s past, who would you meet and why? I think I would like to meet Daniel Joachim, whose generous bequest to the city established the museum that bears his name. Usually, museums are founded by collectors or active local historians, who want to preserve their collections, but that was not his interest. I would like to know if the plans we have been developing for the museum would meet with his approval.