Dakota Discovery Museum (or, the barbed wire blast from the past)

In a span of three years, over 200 patents were filed for various types of barbed wire… which begs the question, how many different ways can you make barbed wire?

A lot. Twelve of them are currently on display at the Dakota Discovery Museum, along with other artifacts dating from the 1600’s to 1940. The main building is home to two museums, one hosting historical features and the other a wonderful display of art. In addition, three separate buildings showcase different aspects of early American life.

Upon entering, the historical museum features a “small” tipi: it’s made of 13-foot poles and covered with three buffalo hides. Though and can easily fit several children (they’re encouraged to climb inside!), it would have been considered a very small structure indeed for those who lived in them. A larger tipi may have used up to 27-foot poles and would have required at least 16 buffalo hides, and the sense of proportion is astounding when standing next the life-sized shelter.

Proportion is one thing, perspective is quite another. Unbeknownst to me, many of the beads used in decorative native beading came from Czechoslovakia. The world has been globalized for centuries!

On the second floor of the Dakota Discovery Museum is a large art gallery filled with diverse works and two wonderful, walk-in workspace replicas. While in the Leland Case exhibit, step into a replica of his library; while walking through walls of illustrations by Charles Hargens, tour an exact replica of his office. To me, it was incredibly neat to see actual props used by Hargens just a few feet away from their illustrated counterparts – and to hear the story of Oscar Howe’s artwork being turned away from an East-coast exhibit for not being “Indian” enough.

Going out of the main building, I toured the Beckwith house. My first thought upon entering was “Oh my goodness! The wallpaper!,” followed closely by “I want to live in this floor plan!” The Beckwith house is the restored home of Louis and Mary Beckwith; Louis was one of the co-founders of the very first Corn Palace. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, stepping into the Beckwith House is like stepping back in time (but with climate control).

Lastly, I was shown into the Sheldon School and Farwell Church. It struck me, upon entering the Church, that I wish I had known about that building when I got married! It’s a beautiful chapel with absolutely lovely acoustics, and a true gem in Mitchell.

The Dakota Discovery Museum is open year-round, though the hours change seasonally. The art exhibits do, too – so if you haven’t visited lately, it’s time to return!

Visit the Dakota Discovery Museum and find out…

What was described as “Too thick to drink, too thin to plow?”

Who – or what – was the “Yellow Fellow?”

Mitchell isn’t just the home of the World’s Only Corn Palace – it’s my home, too. So come on over! Stop in for an afternoon, a weekend, a while.


Jacki Miskimins is the Director of the Mitchell Convention & Visitors Bureau. She is documenting her experiences rediscovering her hometown. Do you have an idea for a post? Let her know!