Beadle County Democrats hear from Van Poll

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HURON — Louise Van Poll, executive director of the Dakotaland Museum, gave a PowerPoint presentation about the three historic sites she oversees at the Beadle County Democratic Forum Jan. 22. The three locations are the Dakotaland Museum on the Fairgrounds, the Pyle House Museum, and the Centennial Stone Church Center.

During the presentation, she gave a recap of all the many changes that have been made at the Dakotaland, the physical upgrades at the Pyle House and Stone Church, and the many future plans in the works for all three places.

The Dakotaland has seen new exhibits and displays installed, and several kid-friendly interactive activities added around the museum. Van Poll said she is currently designing new reading rails which will be printed and installed this spring with grant money. The museum will soon announce a design contest for area artists to develop new murals for the outside of the museum.

“The Voices of Democracy murals had to come down when we did brick work on the building,” Van Poll said. “We have already held a fundraiser, so our plan is to select the winning designs and have them printed and installed in October, weather permitting.”

These will be metal murals, like the new sign outside the museum telling the history of the train engines. That sign was installed just before the State Fair.

Although the official open dates are Memorial Day through Labor Day, the museum is available for group tours and fieldtrips at other times.

The Pyle House has a new wheelchair ramp, which makes the main floor accessible to all. That should encourage more people to consider the house for small-group gatherings, such as a card party, shower, or club meeting.

The dining table will seat 12 when expanded. Van Poll submitted a grant application to repair the parlor ceiling.

“That is the last major repair to be completed,” she said.

The Pyle House is open year-round for tours by appointment.

The Stone Church Center has never looked better, she said. With a new roof, new carpet, and a wheelchair ramp, it is ready for small to large group events.

Van Poll explained, “We have had clubs and organizations hold meetings there; a 250-guest wedding in October; and we will host a family reunion of 70 next summer.”

The next big thing will be a Smithsonian Museum exhibit at the Stone Church.

“Spark: Places of Innovation” will be on display for six weeks beginning Aug. 24. It is part of the Smithsonian’s Museums on Mainstreet program which brings state-of-the-art exhibitions to small towns.

“I am so excited about this opportunity,” Van Poll said. “It will be during the State Fair so Huron should see a nice boost with this exhibit.”

She said it will take a lot of volunteers to make it successful, especially during the Fair.

“The exhibit is free,” she said, “But we need people to open the building, welcome visitors, and lock up in the afternoon. The hours we will be open is completely dependent on the number of workers I get.”

For more information about volunteering, rentals, or tours, or if you would like Van Poll to speak to your group, please contact her at 605-352-2528 or dakotalandmuseum@gmail.com.