Needs assessment is complete on museum center

A thorough examination of just about anything leads to the discovery of anomalies and blemishes. The needs assessment recently completed by the Roosevelt-Custer Regional Council of the museum center in Dickinson is no exception. "When we got into...

A thorough examination of just about anything leads to the discovery of anomalies and blemishes.

The needs assessment recently completed by the Roosevelt-Custer Regional Council of the museum center in Dickinson is no exception.

"When we got into the project, it first became apparent that it was much more complicated than we initially anticipated," said Gene Buresh, R-CRC community development coordinator.

It's hardly surprising there are glitches when seven entities are involved. The city, Stark County, the Southwest Museum Foundation, Dakota Dinosaur Museum, Stark County Historical Society, the Dickinson Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Prairie Outpost Park ethnic groups all have a stake in the museum center.

In January, the city of Dickinson contracted with the R-CRC to complete a six-month long needs assessment of the museum center, after the Stark County Historical Society approached the Dickinson City Commission to ask for monetary assistance in expanding the Pioneer Machinery Building.


Although each entity has its own buildings to maintain, the entire museum center is on city property. The city charges an annual fee of $7,500 to the privately owned non-profit Dakota Dinosaur Museum. The other public non-profit entities use the property without paying the city.

City Administrator Greg Sund said before the commission would agree to fund an expansion, the commissioners thought it would be best to determine the needs of the entire center.

The survey covered four major areas: determining the mission of all the entities involved, understanding how they are governed, assessing the assets and listing their physical needs.

"Our first recommendation, before anything else is done, because of the governance issues with the problems to who owns that all of the entities involved enter into a joint powers sharing agreement," Buresh said during a public meeting Monday evening.

He said he recommended the same for the various ethnic groups that have buildings in Prairie Outpost Park.

"The third recommendation is that the entities explore the possibility of having one board, or incorporating one board, to run the entire museum complex," Buresh said.

Buresh recommended each of the groups lay out a mission statement.

"The city has taken the first step and hired a museum director, Danielle (Stuckle); that's been a good step, but it's also caused problems," Buresh said. "Because of that hiring, there is confusion; there is uncertainty as to what the role of each of the boards is."


Another recommendation is to develop a working relationship with the Dakota Dinosaur Museum.

"There are a number of reasons that soured over the years," Buresh said. "The differences need to be set aside to coordinate efforts."

Buresh said the dinosaur museum is the primary draw in the museum center. Buresh said the dinosaur museum, as well as a number of museums across the country, has experienced a decline in numbers but the exact number of visitors is unknown.

Buresh said the next steps would be to conduct a strategic plan, as well as for all the entities involved to partake in training sessions to clarify the board directors' roles.

Once those goals are accomplished, Buresh said the museum center could consider adding interactive technological capabilities, which could also allow the center to remain for more than the summer season. Plus, he said the museum center could consider working with other regional museums.

"If the museums are going to grow, and if a mission is decided upon, and we're going to take the next step, then we need more than volunteers to operate each of the museums," Buresh said.

Expanding ideas

Buresh said the various entities should not consider physical expansion of the buildings until the other recommendations are met.


In fact, R-CRC executive director Rod Landblom said they should not even be planning an expansion yet.

"I wouldn't worry about the planning part until you take care of the first part, and that is determine a mission and follow through on the joint powers and legitimize the overall effort," Landblom said at the meeting Monday night. "Planning itself is not a cure-all; all it is, is a process and I'm not sure you're ready for that part of the process yet."

However, Buresh laid out three possibilities for expansion. He said the entities could choose to expand only the Pioneer Machinery Building, remodel only the Joachim Museum or seek to renovate and combine both. The costs could be as little as almost $350,000 for a remodel on the machinery building or as much as $2.75 million to do a complete overhaul of both museums.

"The architects tell us there would be about a 5 percent inflation factor per year," Buresh said. "For a new building, you're looking at $3 million by the time you go through the planning stage. It wouldn't be cheap."

Buresh recommends the funds be raised privately, involving a fundraising campaign. He said the cost would be a burden on the taxpayers if the entities attempt to seek public funds.

"The second reason would be using a fundraising campaign as a means of advertising the facility and increasing public awareness of what's there and what could be there," Buresh said.

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