Caretakers of the Community's Past Volunteers in North Dakota Museums
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The bulk of museum studies research focuses on professionalized museums. Little research has been conducted on the challenges of small museums. This study looks at volunteers in small North Dakota museums. Sparsely populated North Dakota lacks the funds and manpower to professionally staff their rural museums. While it is especially difficult for museums to recruit younger volunteers because they tend to be more mobile and have constricted schedules, North Dakota’s small museums have adapted by staffing with older volunteers. Museums in Southwest North Dakota such as the Hettinger County Historical Society, Dakota Buttes Museum, and Mott Gallery of History and Art survive because older volunteers sustain their museums. These older volunteers do not always follow strict professional guidelines, but they do contribute life skills, knowledge of the community, and historical understanding to their work at the museums in North Dakota. Their contributions are vital to the survival of these museums.