A window into the past: Lori Nohner joins staff as manager of Pioneer Trails Regional Museum
“Visitors are usually very happy to see such a well-developed quality museum in a town of 1,500,” said manager Lori Nohner, who joined the museum staff in February.
With its extensive collection of Native American and paleontology artifacts, the museum has run out of space to tell the complete story of Bowman County’s history.
To meet this need, Nohner is working with 10-member board of directors to plan and develop 7,500 square feet of additional space for local exhibits, and to implement a $40,000 grant for enhanced lighting.
The State Historical Society of North Dakota provided $20,000 toward the grant, which was matched by Bowman County. It will be used to install LED lighting throughout the building.
“LED light produces a better light for a lot less cost and it doesn’t produce very much heat,” she said.
The museum, which is located at 12 First Ave. NE, is adjacent to a building that will be used for the expansion purposes. Described as a building inside a building, it’s sheet-rocked and ready for the new exhibits, she said.
Nohner envisions it to be a walkway of Bowman storefronts. The project is estimated to be completed in a few years.“One of my main goals is to draw a bigger audience beyond a 20-mile radius and to move the museum forward with professional care of the collections,” she said.
Since she started, Nohner continues to learn what is stored in the collection.
“We take donations of small artifacts, but there is no guarantee they will be seen on an exhibit,” she said. “They are something to keep in mind as we develop new exhibits.”
Pioneer Trails opened in 1992 with a paleontology collection of 100,000 specimens of fossils — from dinosaurs to turtle shells and crocodiles.
The collection is linked to the nearby K-T Boundary — the geological boundary that separates the Cretaceous period from the tertiary era.
The Native American collection is credited to local artist Chris Fulton, who did the research for the exhibit.
The local history area showcases area veterans, homesteaders, ranchers, farmers and sheep producers. The city exhibits are currently being boxed for relocation.
The museum has a rotating exhibit featuring eastern Europeans immigrants who settled in North Dakota.
On the museum grounds, visitors will see a replica sod house and the 1908 Union Prairie Lutheran Church that was moved from southeast of Bowman.
The museum recently remodeled space near the front door to enhance its gift shop and to provide space for archives.
Part-time employee JoAnn Domagala of Bowman specializes in keeping the archive collection up to date. She clips articles from the local newspaper and shoppers to place into files according to town, family name, business, organization or school.
“I love this job because you learn who is married to whom, who died and who are related,” she said.
Museum board member/volunteer Colleen Kelley loves helping to take care of the grounds.
“It becomes a meditation to come out here and work,” she said. “Although with a lot of moisture this spring, it has a different look — it’s a lot greener.”
Kelley serves on the board because she has a heart for local history.
“I have a long family history that goes back here to the 1890s,” she said. “That’s what got me started. All the research and stories of the pioneers here — it’s wonderful stuff.”
She is looking forward to the day when the expansion is completed.
“That’s where we’ll show our pictures and artifacts and all the wonderful things that were left from those early days,” she said.
A native of Mandan, Nohner’s interest in public history was sparked when she was a historical interpreter at the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park in Mandan. She also worked as a digital archivist intern for the State Historical Society of North Dakota.
Nohner went on to pursue a master’s degree in history with an emphasis in museum studies at Colorado State University. She was working for the National Park Service in Montana when the Bowman position became open. She was impressed with the quality of the museum and accepted the offer.
The petroglyphs and triceratops are her favorite exhibits. She is looking forward to going on a dig with paleontologists this summer to learn about the process.
For now, she is happy to interpret artifacts for visitors, replace light bulbs and plan for the future. For more information, call the museum at 701-523-3600.