History of the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center

  • May 11, 1971 - The Mari Sandoz Heritage Fund is created as a sub –agency of the Chadron State Foundation. The Fund Committee is comprised of faculty, students, representatives from the communications media, historical agencies, and interested lay persons.[i]
  • May 11, 1972 - Chadron State College provides a room on the ground floor of the college library to house the donations of letters, papers, publications, and other memorabilia connected with Mari Sandoz and her interests. The collection contains approximately 100 letters, 40 photographs, 200 slides, 20 tapes, 160 books, 20 periodicals and miscellaneous personal effects belonging to Mari.[ii]
  • October 1972 – The first formal proposal for the “Mari Sandoz Center for the Study of Man” is prepared by the Mari Sandoz Heritage Fund Committee at Chadron State College.[iii]
    • The Center facility will be divided into two main sections: a library with supportive primary research materials and a museum. The Center will also contain a large open space will exhibit between the museums and the library for the purpose of handling large or small groups; a small lobby area; conference classrooms, storage, work rooms, a small auditorium, and a photographic reproduction room.[iv]
  • January 1975 – Senator Leslie A. Stull introduces legislation LB390 to authorize the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society in conjunction with Chadron State College to research various program and architectural alternative with the purpose of constructing a Mari Sandoz Cultural Center to be located on the Campus of Chadron State College. The bill did not move out of appropriations.[v]
  • Spring 1976 – Models for the Mari Sandoz Center for Study of Man are created by students of the College of Architecture, University of Nebraska at Lincoln.[vi]
  • Fall 1976 - Chadron State College’s School of External Affairs proposes the “Center for Environmental, Historical, and Multicultural Background Studies” to the Nebraska State Legislature.[vii]
    • The Center will promote and enhance a deliberate thrust fitting to the characteristics of Chadron State College in study and research in anthropology, historical and geographic research peculiar to the area, energy research, the study of early western pioneers and outdoor environmental experiences. [viii]
    • The funding request was denied due to apparent overlap of this program with the Nebraska State Historical Society’s mission.
  • September 8, 1983 – The former campus Carnegie-style library is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Chadron State College Historic Buildings Thematic Resource.[ix]
  • 1987 – The Chadron State College Physical Plant priority list includes the use of the former college library for a “Mari Sandoz Museum.”[x]
  • Spring 1988 – Dr. Michael Cartwright, the new dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and others reactivate the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society with the goal of establishing a Center.[xi]
  • Spring 1991 – The Mari Sandoz Heritage Room opened on the second floor of the Administration Building at Chadron State to exhibit scores of items pertaining to Mari Sandoz that primarily had been collected by Lloy Chamberlin and displayed in the Chamberlin’s furniture store in Gordon.[xii]  This room also contains the items formerly held in the College’s library.
  • Winter 1992 – An announcement is made for the beginning of fundraising for the Mari Sandoz Center for High Plains Research. Planned to be for the former Chadron State College Library. The Center will be “an ongoing project that will preserve the archival history of the region. It will include information on pre-history, Native Americans, cowboys, homesteaders, railroaders, the various ethnic groups, the whole mix. It would have broad appeal and bring in people from all over.” The Center is planned to be opened by 1996 for the centennial of Mari’s birth.[xiii]
  • Fall 1996 – The Mari Sandoz Heritage Society’s fall newsletter states that organizations are being asked for funds for the creation of the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center.[xiv]
    • The funds will be used to renovate and equip the old library building on the campus of Chadron State College for use as the Center and provide special programs and operating expenses. The Center will include a museum interpreting the region based on Sandoz’ Great Plains series and other writings. The CSC Herbarium will be housed in the Center. It will also include an Archival Repository of historical records, photographs and artifacts of the region.[xv]
  • March 1999 -  Meeting in Lincoln and with the governor looking on, representatives of Chadron State College and the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society enter into a “memorandum of understanding ” to develop a resource center bearing the famed author ’s name.
  • July 1999 - Vernon P. and Madge Fortune Chicoine of Chadron are lead donors for a 2,432-square foot atrium that will be placed to the south of the Old Library. The atrium will be used for exhibits, programs and honorary events and will be named for the Chicoines.
  • November 1999 - The Center receives funding the Department of Interior’s National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Department of Labor’s Institute of Museum and Library Services.
  • February 2000 - The Student Council at the Sandoz Elementary School at Millard, Neb., donates $100 toward the Heritage Center.
  • April 2000 - The Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundation awards a grant to help develop a historical library within the Heritage Center.
  • September 2000 - The First National Bank of North Platte agrees to purchase a life-sized bronze sculpture of Mari Sandoz cast by award-winning artist George Lundeen of Loveland, Colo. The sculpture will be placed in front of the Heritage Center.
  • 2000
    • John and Carmen Gottschalk of Omaha underwrite the development of a gallery to interpret Mari Sandoz’s works.
    • The Peter Kiewit Foundation contributes to develop a gallery interpreting the development of the High Plains region of Nebraska and surrounding states.
    • December 2000 - Long-time northwest Nebraska ranching families, Bill and Virginia Coffee of Harrison, and Charles and Barbara Marcy of Chadron and Hay Springs, and the First National Bank of Chadron agree to create the Col. C. F. Coffee Gallery in the Heritage Center. The gallery will focus on the development of the cattle industry in the region.
  • January 2001 - Fuller Construction Co. of Chadron receives the bid to develop the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center at a cost of $1.668 million, not including furnishings.
  • April 2001 - The Nebraska Environmental Trust, a beneficiary of the Nebraska Lottery, contributes to develop green spaces, create energy efficient systems and prepare exhibits for the Heritage Center. The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum’s Green Space Stewardship Initiative also provided toward the project.
  • June 2001 - Ken Korte, a 1968 graduate of Chadron State, is hired as interim director of the Heritage Center. He previously was director of the Montana Historical Society and curator of the Montana State Museum.
  • September 2001 - Chadron State College signs an agreement with Octavo, a California-based high-tech digital imaging firm, to establish a preservation laboratory in the Heritage Center. Of special interest to both parties is the preservation of approximately 1,100 glass plate negatives belonging to the college that were taken between 1906 and 1939 by Chadron photographers Ray and Fay Graves.
  • February 2002 - The Nebraska Department of Roads awards a grant to construct a mile-long, 8-foot wide concrete Heritage Trail leading from the Heritage Center to the Thompson Natural History Preserve on the southern edge of the Chadron State campus. The Pine Ridge Trails Association provided funds to help meet the match that was required.
  • March 2002 - The Sterns Charitable Foundation established by the late Bernadine Sterns Glass Stevens in 1975, provides funding to help furnish and equip the Heritage Center.
  • September 9, 2002 – The Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center opens on the Campus of Chadron State College.
  • 2002 – Center Receives Jane Geske Award
  • March 2004 – Sarah Polak is hired as the Center’s Director. Polak is a graduate of Rockhurst University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Prior to her arrival at Chadron State, Polak was director of the Plainsman Museum in Aurora, Nebraska.
  • 2005
    • Raleigh and Esther Pilster Land donated to Benefit Center
    • Center Receives publishing award for exhibition Catalog
  • 2006
    • September - Heritage Gardens Open
  • 2007
  • 2008
    • First Learning-Based Vacation proposed
    • Coffee Gallery Receives Materials from Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association
    • Digital Archive Committee Forms - This group of CSC staff, faculty, and community members began talks on collaboratively working to preserve CSC, local, and regional history in a digital medium. The Sandoz Center and its staff area a key component to this group bringing expertise to discussions and planning.
    • Sweethearts in Carhartts” open new exhibit in Coffee Gallery
    • Center Collections featured in “Beef State” Documentary

[i] “Mari Sandoz Center for the Study of Man” 1972 proposal, pages 1- 2, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Organizational Papers.

[ii] “Mari Sandoz Center for the Study of Man” 1972 proposal, page 2, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Organizational Papers.

[iii] “Mari Sandoz Center for the Study of Man” 1972 proposal, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Organizational Papers.

[iv] “Mari Sandoz Center for the Study of Man” 1972 proposal, page 11-14, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Organizational Papers.

[v] LB 390, 84th Legislature, First Session Legislative Bill, page 2. Mari Sandoz Heritage, Spring 1975, Vol. 4, No. 2, Page 5.

[vi] Letter from Ellen Larson to Undisclosed recipients, March 3, 1976

[vii] Chadron State College proposal for New and Expanded Programs – cover page, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Organizational Papers.

[viii] Chadron State College proposal for New and Expanded Programs – cover page, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Organizational Papers.

[x] Information report for the Business Affairs/Physical Plant subcommittee regarding the Mari Sandoz Society and Museum. July 17, 1993

[xi] College Dean Fuels Sandoz Effort, Omaha World Herald, May 31, 1988, Page unknown, columns 3-6

[xii] Sandoz Group Eyes Center in Chadron. Omaha World Herald, January 13, 1992. Page 14 columns unknown

Society Revived to Boost Miss Sandoz’s Work, Omaha World Herald, May 13, 1991. Page 11, Columns 4-6

[xiii] Office of Information, press release, 02-24-1992, Personal Files of Con Marshall

[xiv] High Plains Heritage Center Fundraising Program, Mari Sandoz Heritage, page 1, Fall 1996, Vol. 15, No. 2

[xv] High Plains Heritage Center Fundraising Program, Mari Sandoz Heritage, page 1, Fall 1996, Vol. 15, No. 2