I’ve recently come across a few people concerned with the availability of teacher resources and continuing education for South Dakota history. One was particularly looking for digital and primary digital resources to use with an existing curriculum plan. I have only moderate experience with planning and hosting youth programs and no professional experience with curriculum development, but I do love research and learning about history. Their conversations made me think about whether the digital research sources I use on a regular basis, or come across randomly, could help teach significant South Dakota stories. So this post is thinking out loud about this question… Let me know if anything here is helpful and please do comment with other ideas or great examples of teaching SD history!
This edition of Digital Resources includes three collections of the Library of Congress:
At the Library of Congress website, I recently came across detailed plat maps of Turner, Hanson, Bon Homme, and Lincoln Counties from 1893, link here. They were published by Rowley & Peterson, a company from Vermillion, SD.
My favorite research maps for South Dakota towns are definitely those of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. Some libraries have digital access to map collections, but there are some of the nineteenth-century maps freely available on the Library of Congress, link here.
In 1939-1940, photographer John Vachon came through South Dakota for the Farm Security Administration and took photographs of many different subjects, including grand houses, churches, ranch landscapes, snowy streets, and a family at dinner. He went through Sisseton, Aberdeen, Roslyn, Pierre, Mellette County, Mission, Draper, Miller, Hyde County, Bowdle, Ipswich, Zell, Rockham, Faulk County, Doland, Clark County, Dewey County, Timber Lake, Trail City, Selby, Mobridge, Walworth County, Lemmon, White Butte, Ziebach County, Cressbard, Glenham, Orient, Rosebud, Perkins County, Northville, Corson County, Marvin, Lyman County, Murdo, Batesland, Pine Ridge reservation, and Keystone, link here.
Our capitol city has lost many significant and/or gorgeous buildings. It’s hard to look at some of these archival photographs and think “How did we lose that!?!” Towards the bottom of the list, I’ll run through some of the recent losses–those that had been neglected, damaged, or vacated and cleared to make way for whatever comes next. Then, way at the bottom are citations for frequently used sources, I’ll just put the minimal citation in the text.
For more on Pierre’s surviving historic places and city history: Pierre/Fort Pierre Travel Itinerary from the National Park Service and the Historic Pierre website of the Pierre/Fort Pierre Historic Preservation Office.
Now, here are some (actually, a quite a few) short(-ish) building biographies for a selection of Pierre places that live now only in archive and memory…
For this West River edition of “Digital Research Tools,” I’ve included collections in Hot Springs, Spearfish, and Deadwood. Thank you to the librarians, archivists, grant-writers, donors, and supporters who are helping to make these collections available. Back in the day, I did a couple student gigs as an archive intern, scanning material and entering metadata for each and every record. It takes an incredible amount of time and organizational energy to turn tactile records into digital ones and put them out there for the public in an accessible way–particularly for a local public library, for which archive digitization would seem to be outside their typical wheelhouse. Thank you working to bring new life to our past!
Helen Magee Collection, Hot Springs Public Library: The library in Hot Springs is the repository of the exhaustive collection of local historian Helen Magee, who meticulously recorded years and years of obituaries, mortuary records, birth announcements, “on this day…” news articles, event flyers, and more. The collection is digitized and searchable to an extent–handwritten material doesn’t come up in the searches, some was later typed out but some wasn’t. Magee’s information was arranged at some point into binders by subject matter, so if you’re curious, go through to the subject of interest and browse to your hearts content. The library also has the hard-copies in their Heritage Room if you plan a research trip there.
Leland D. Case Library, Black Hills State University, Spearfish: This link takes you to a list of the collections held at the Case Library at BHSU in Spearfish. The descriptions of each collection have links then to finding aids or search options if that collection has digitally-viewable material. It looks like… they have digitized material from the Black Hills National Forest Historical Collection, the Troy L. and Watson Parker Collection (Black Hills ephemera and research notebooks on ghost towns), the Father Szalay collection (heavy on maps), the Wharf Resources, Inc. collection on the Bald Mountain Mining Company, and several collections of research materials from historians and authors.
Deadwood History: This link will take to a page about research options with Deadwood History. There’s a link to their digital collection, and a link to their finding aids if you want to look deeper into their available collections. If you go to their digital collections, there’s a Random Images link at the top that’s a fun way to get a glimpse at the wide variety of things they have.
For histories of science, environment, and agriculture, SDSU has their Agricultural Experiment Bulletins from 1887 and Research Station reports from 1961 posted online, as well as other department reports and publications. The website is called Open PRAIRIE, link to earliest Bulletins here.
There are a ton of archival resources outside the state that give us insight into South Dakota history. The New York Public Library has an amazing archive and has made many of their collections available digitally. See the 104 results that I found searching for “South Dakota” at this link here.
Historic maps can be critical research tools, but also super fun. The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection is infamous and the 158 results for South Dakota include published atlases as well as exploration maps, territorial maps, railroad maps, soil maps, and tourist maps–link here. Then, the US Geological Survey recently made historical topographic maps available in a new user-friendly platform, link here.