Founders of the Institute for Regional StudiesBack row: H. Dean Stalling, E. A. Helgeson, Rudolph Otterson, Kenneth Kuhn.Front row: William C. Hunter, G. Ernst Gieseke, O. A. Stevens.
After arriving on campus in 1949, G. Ernst Giesecke, Dean of the School of Applied Arts and Sciences at North Dakota Agricultural College, began developing the idea for a campus center that would enable the faculty to do original research focusing on the Upper Great Plains and, in the process, better themselves as teachers. Out of his discussions with faculty and the encouragement of President Fred Hultz, a proposal was forwarded to the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education for the establishment of an Institute for Regional Studies.
The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education formally approved the establishment of the Institute on March 8, 1950. The founders articulated four principles to serve as guides for the direction of the Institute:
to stimulate research into the region's resources and culture
to provide a center for research
to encourage artistic expression of life on the plains
to assist in disseminating results of significant work
In order to assist in the dissemination of significant work, the Institute began its own publishing program. The first book was Handbook of North Dakota Plants written by Professor O. A. Stevens and published in 1950. To date over seventy major publications have been issued with the Institute's imprint.
Institute for Regional Studies first book, Handbook of North Dakota Plants written by Professor O. A. Stevens
The Institute provided a center for research through the creation of an archival repository, housed in the then new fireproof campus library. The Institute received its first donation of historical documents in 1950. Leonard Sackett, Professor of English and Chairman of the Committee for the Preservation of Historical Documents, became responsible for acquiring further records. The Institute has been committed to collecting records on all aspects of the state's past, but has been especially successful in acquiring records related to agriculture, literary figures, the pioneer era, women, and the development of Fargo as an urban center. To date the Institute has accessioned over 2,900 separate collections and preserves over 100,000 photographs.
In 1975 the Institute's archival operation was separated from the publishing arm, with administrative and financial responsibility given to the NDSU Libraries. Also at this time the first full-time professional archivist was hired.
The Institute founders also attempted to stimulate interest in the region through a variety of activities. They held art shows to display the talents of North Dakota artists. The Institute sponsored a Local History Day, which was an attempt to teach people how to preserve documents and aid people in the writing of local history. The Institute, with the aid of a monetary gift, created the Young Memorial Scholarship that was awarded to students who researched and wrote exceptional papers on regional interests and topics.
In 1971, a university archives program was established on campus. It is administered by the NDSU Libraries and housed with the Institute as a single department. The University Archives serves as the official repository for the historically enduring records of North Dakota State University. The University Archives collects non-current official and unofficial records, publications, and information pertaining to NDSU.