The Mari Sandoz High Plains Herirage Center features a constant rotation of exhibits on a diverse range of historical and artistic subjects, stop in and see what's new, check out our permanent exhibits, or learn about our collection of traveling exhibits that can come to you!

Permanent Exhibits


Carmen and John Gottschalk - Mari Sandoz Gallery

This permanent exhibit space tells the story of the life and literature of Mari Sandoz. Using photographs and objects from the Center’s Collections, the exhibit is a great introduction to a ground-breaking author or a way to delve deeper into an author you may already be familiar with.

The exhibit examines the topics of her writing – landscape, advocacy for Native Americans, writing style, and dedication to research – through the lens of her personal experience.

This exhibition space is located on the main floor of the Sandoz Center.

E.H. Barbour Paleontology Exhibit

The mid-20th century was a time of scientific exploration in the West, and the Nebraska Sand Hills region was no exception. One particular Sand Hills scientific resource was instrumental in bringing together two legendary figures: E.H. Barbour, founder of the University of Nebraska State Museum, and “Old Jules” Sandoz. The exhibit, "Who lived here before?" highlights this exchange.

Sandoz discovered fossils on his land and he brought these to the attention of Barbour in a series of letters. Copies of these letters can be seen in the kiosk. Barbour arrived at Sandoz’s doorstep several times only to find Sandoz gone. Years later, after they finally met, Barbour realized that Sandoz had discovered a new species of giant beaver, Castoroides.

A related exhibit displays fossils collected at Graves-Potter, another Sand Hills locality. In 1999 Jennifer Cavin, a student at the South Dakota School of Mines, wrote a master’s thesis on these fossils. Cavin concluded that the fossils were deposited in an ancient lake during the Pleistocene Ice Age. The fossils show that animals living in the Sand Hills at that time are more typical of Arctic regions today. The “megafauna” of the Ice Age is represented in the bison, woolly mammoth, mastodon, giant ground sloth, western camel (Camelops), glyptodont (giant armadillo), the short-faced bear (Arctodus), musk ox, sabertooth cat, horse, tapir, and giant beaver (Castoroides).

These exhibits can be found in the Carmen and John Gottschalk - Mari Sandoz Gallery, located on the Main floor of the Sandoz Center. For more information about geology and paleontology in the area, please visit the Eleanor Barbour Cook Museum of Geology at Chadron State College.

Flora Sandoz, The Wild Flowers of Nebraska Exhibit

Flora Sandoz

Flora Rosa Sandoz, named by her older sister Marie (Mari), was born May 12, 1906, to parents Jules and Mary Sandoz. She was born on the Old River Place south of Hay Springs, NE, but would spend much of her life on the Sandhill Ranch south of Gordon.

In the fall of 1929, she enrolled in the Botany program at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. In three years she finished her degree and returned to her home. Unfortunately, due to the Great Depression there were few jobs available. In 1934, she married a musician by the name of Boris Kicken. They worked very hard on the family’s Sandhills homestead, taking care of the cattle as well as the orchards. Their marriage, however, did not end well. Flora continued to tend to her cattle and fruit trees, and those trees left by her father.

Flora voraciously read all horticultural publications. She experimented on varieties of fruit trees, especially apple trees, and kept accurate records of her harvests and of annual rainfall. Flora was also noted for taking pictures of wildflowers, which she showed to local clubs.

The Sandoz Center features an interactive, touch-screen kiosk devoted to Flora Sandoz. It features commentary by Flora on the wildflowers that she collected around her home as well as her photographs of her plants. The exhibit highlights Flora’s vast botanical knowledge and provides valuable insight into her personality.

This exhibit can be found in the Carmen and John Gottschalk - Mari Sandoz Gallery, located on the Main floor of the Sandoz Center. For more information about Flora Sandoz and the botanical history of the region, please visit the Chadron State College Herbarium.


C.F. Coffee Gallery

The C. F. Coffee Gallery is dedicated to the history of Cattle Ranching on the High Plains. Exhibits in the gallery space begin with the movement of cattle from Texas to the High Plains, the open range era, and the transition to the ranching system we know today.

The Coffee Gallery is the newest of the exhibit spaces and is still in development. The primary focus of the Gallery’s work has been collecting archival resources for use by the students at Chadron State College and researchers from around the world. For more information about the archival resources available, please contact the Center.

This exhibit space is located on the lower level of the Sandoz Center’s Chicoine Atrium.

Heritage Gardens

Heritage Gardens

The Heritage Gardens project, which began in the spring of 2006, reflects the region’s prairie, native, and ranching cultures. It is a living, teaching collection on the campus of Chadron State College. The Gardens are a cultural, historical, and environmental learning space. Learn More

The High Plains World of Claude A. Barr & Heritage Gardens

Claude A. Barr (1887-1982) was a South Dakota cattle rancher who attained international acclaim as an eminent plantsman of the plains. Through his Prairie Gem Ranch, he supplied Great Plains seeds, plants, and information to the scientific and gardening world for many years. His achievements inspired the formation of the Great Plains Native Plant Society in 1984.

Barr’s life work is depicted in his posthumously published book Jewels of the Plains. This book is still the definitive work on plains wildflowers and their cultivation. With original photographs, the hardback edition of Jewels of the Plains is now out of print. The copies that can be found are the prized possessions of gardeners around the world.

A small exhibit on Barr and his life and work are located on the main floor of the Sandoz Center. Through the support of Chadron State College, the High Plains Herbarium, and the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, the Center is home to the Claude Barr Garden. Featuring a sample of the plants that Barr wrote about in Jewels of the Plains, the Gardens are located on the east side of the Center. They are open to public.

For more information Claude Barr and the botanical history of the region, please visit the Chadron State College Herbarium