Gardening in North Dakota Project by State Historical Society, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection AASLH Award Recipients.

1 July 2011

BISMARCK – A project centered on the Gardening in North Dakota exhibit produced by the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND) has been named a national award recipient by the American Association of State and Local History (AASLH). The other North Dakota award winner is the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at North Dakota State University. The Heritage Collection is a longtime partner of the SHSND, involved in a variety of projects with the state’s history agency over the years.

Gardening in North Dakota has been selected as a recipient of the AASLH’s Award of Merit. The Award of Merit is presented to recognize excellence for projects, individual achievement, and organizational general excellence.

The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, in addition to being named a recipient of the Award of Merit, was also selected as a WOW Award winner. The WOW Award is given to an Award of Merit winner whose nomination is, to quote the AASLH, “highly inspirational, exhibits exceptional scholarship, and/or is exceedingly entrepreneurial in terms of funding, partnerships, or collaborations, creative problem solving, or unusual project design and inclusiveness.” Only three WOW Awards have been given this year.

The AASLH Annual Awards Program, now in its 66th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

The Gardening in North Dakota project started with an exhibit idea that developed into a concise history of gardening in North Dakota. The exhibit tells the story of about 900 years of gardening in what would become North Dakota, beginning when American Indians began cultivating corn, squash, sunflowers, and beans along the Missouri and other river systems in the state. Barbara Handy-Marchello, associate history professor emerita of the University of North Dakota, extensively researched the exhibit’s content. SHSND staff selected artifacts, photographs, documents, and recordings from the Society’s collections to interpret North Dakota gardening in various mediums. Dispersed via the web, print, and traveling exhibits, this shared story has reached a wide audience.

By the time it ends its two-year exhibition at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck November 6, about 200,000 visitors will have viewed Gardening in North Dakota. It’s estimated that an additional 250,000 will see it as it travels around the state as part of the SHSND’s popular Traveling Interpretive Exhibits for North Dakota (TIES) program during the next several years. After that, the exhibit panels will be repackaged as a display that can be borrowed by educational organizations such as local historical societies, libraries, and state parks.

From the State Archives came over a century’s worth of Oscar H. Will and Seed Company catalogs. The scanned catalog covers were turned into a small supporting exhibit, used on original products for the North Dakota Heritage Center Museum Store, and highlighted in North Dakota History, the quarterly journal of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. The Archives also provided historic gardening posters distributed by the government that were scanned and developed into a separate TIES exhibit – Seeds of Victory: Home Gardening Posters from the World Wars.

North Dakota History dedicated an issue (Vol. 76 Nos. 1 & 2) to the topic with articles about seedman George Will and North Dakota horticulturist Dr. Albert Yaeger.

The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection was cited for its exceptional work in preserving and sharing the culture of Germans from Russia on the Northern Plains. Its founding director and bibliographer is Michael Miller, who has been a librarian and faculty member at North Dakota State University since 1967. Since its inception in 1978, this specialized archive has become one of the most comprehensive collections of German-Russian resources in the world. As a North Dakota and German-Russian ambassador, Miller conducts annual Journey to the Homeland heritage tours to Ukraine and Germany. He started these tours in 1996 and they continue today, keeping Americans connected to their German-Russian heritage. In addition, Miller’s Dakota Memories initiative includes the Oral History Project, Heritage Tour, and an online course. Through the Oral History Project, comprehensive research collections have been created, with residencies in communities from South Dakota to Saskatchewan. The Heritage Tour is an outreach and educational program promoting heritage tourism in North Dakota. The most recent program is an online course that teaches the origins and customs of the people who call themselves the Germans from Russia. For more information about the Germans from Russia Collection, visit its website at

This year’s AASLH award winners will be honored at a special banquet September 16 during the AASLH’s 2011 annual meeting in Richmond, Virginia September 14-17. The AASLH awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history throughout the United States. The AASLH awards program not only honors significant achievement in the field of local history, but also brings public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions and programs to make contributions in this arena. The AASLH is a not-for-profit professional organization of individuals and institutions working to preserve and promote history. Its headquarters are located in Nashville, Tennessee. For more information, visit its website at

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller