Digital Research Tools 3

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.


Hot Springs, January 2017, photograph from South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office.

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.


South Dakota Architects – Alber, Albright, and Bartlett

I love historic places and I love pulling out details of the history of these places.  Contributing to this quirk (obsession) is my affinity for finding information and organizing it, in hopes that I or others may find the information useful when undertaking higher-level analysis.  I’ve demonstrated this in previous posts, and I would call out a few examples here, but it’s actually quite apparent in most of them…

Because I love historic places, information on their architects has been one of my obsessive projects.  This post will start a series on architects (and some significant builders) who were residents of South Dakota in order to dig a bit into their lives and work.  Some made a bigger impact and/or left a better historical record than others, but we miss something if we only study the biggest names.  There are a handful that were only mentioned once and I can’t find anything else about them – maybe I’ll include them in a list at the end…  I’ll do my best to restrict these profiles to architects who are now deceased.  If any readers have additional information or corrections, please leave a note in the comments!

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The Renaissance of the Homestake Opera House

In 1984, the theater of the Homestake Opera House burned.  A two-story on Main Street, but with the city of Lead’s steep topography, it’s a three story building at the alley where the theater is located.  The blaze took a long time to extinguish.  An expedient roof was put over the space, but the restoration of the damaged theater is still ongoing.  In recent years, an active schedule of plays, weddings, and other community events has brought renewed energy into seeing a renaissance for the Homestake Opera House.  The newest project is an Interpretive Center telling the history of the opera house and Lead.  They’ll soon be continuing restoration on the decorative plaster and box seats in the theater.


The street façade of the Homestake Opera House, Lead. Photograph by author, March 2016.

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Fish on a Train: A Visit to the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery

Through the viewing tunnel that goes below the water.

Through the viewing tunnel that goes below the water.

Recently, I visited the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery in Spearfish with some friends.  I’d been there once before for a brief stop, was able to go into some of the museum buildings this time, but still want to go back and linger a while.  Despite proposals to close the facility and cuts in staff, it’s had a few reprieves and, at least for the time being, continues to serve the community, teach about our history and natural world, and raise 20,000-30,000 trout annually.  The volunteers who work with about 150,000 visitors each year are doing a fantastic job.  Those I met were very friendly and welcoming.  The Booth Society, the partner non-profit, seems to manage the bulk of visitor and educational services and grounds maintenance.  In the news and on Facebook, I’ve seen that the site participates widely in school group tours, concert series, fairs, and even artist paint-ins.  The tourism value makes a big economic impact (link here to 2013 study published in Tourism Management).  The visit is free (except for food to feed the trout – which is super fun), but tourists buy gas, stay in hotels, go out to eat afterwards… and places like this make travel adventures special.

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