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Remodeled Heritage Center boosting visitation; official says more than 200,000 might come

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BISMARCK, North Dakota — Two new galleries have opened in a $52 million expansion of North Dakota's state museum and officials say they could double visitor numbers as a result.

A third gallery at the Heritage Center on the Capitol grounds in Bismarck is slated to open on Nov. 2, which is the 125th anniversary of North Dakota statehood.

The museum was closed in the fall of 2012 for the 97,000-square-foot expansion. The first two new galleries opened in late May, and visitation since then has surpassed 85,000 people. Before the expansion, the museum drew between 100,000 and 125,000 annually.

"We're hoping to double it," State Historical Society Director Merle Paaverud told The Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/1wHoLUm ). "We've exceeded people's expectations."

The first new gallery, called the Adaptation Gallery, focuses on prehistoric North Dakota, with dinosaur casts highlighting the displays. The other open gallery, the Innovation Gallery, takes visitors from a point 13,000 years ago up until modern settlement of the state. It includes myriad Native American artifacts.

The gallery still under construction, the Inspiration Gallery, will include exhibits on agricultural and technological advances. Several large exhibit pieces including vehicles and farm equipment already are in place, and other items will be installed soon, according to Paaverud.

"It will tell the story of North Dakota history from 1861 to present," he said.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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