Black Hills Mining Museum supporters seek new space | Oklahoma News
By WENDY PITLICK, Black Hills Pioneer
LEAD, SD (AP) – For 35 years, a former grocery store that took 17,000 volunteer hours to grow into a gold mine of history has served the community well. But members of the Black Hills Mining Museum are arguing for a new building.
Members of the Black Hills Mining Museum Board of Trustees recently hosted a community meeting to discuss the museum’s importance in preserving the history of Lead and the history of mining, as well as to talk of their need for a new facility and the preliminary plans that were made for two new buildings – one on Main Street and one in Gold Run Park.
Homestake was the deepest gold mine in the Western Hemisphere for 125 years before it closed in 2001. During operation, the mining company produced 41 million troy ounces of gold, which would have been 900 ounces of gold per day. Black Hills Mining Museum’s new facility coordinator Gordon Phillips said based on today’s gold prices it would be $ 1.6 million a day, the Black Hills Pioneer reported.
“It’s pretty important,” he said. “So when I talk about the importance of the Black Hills Mining Museum, it’s because we have a treasure trove of irreplaceable community treasures.”
The museum, he explained, serves to tell the story of the Homestake Mining Company, as well as tell the story of lead and other mining practices around the Black Hills. It also contains irreplaceable and valuable artefacts and documents from the region, which many people use for their research. Phillips said the museum regularly receives five-star ratings from travel agencies such as AAA and TripAdvisor, and that in 2014 the SD legislature designated it as the state’s official mining museum.
“This mining museum is the lead gold mine,” said Chairman of the Board Mike Stahl.
Phillips reported that almost every week someone walks into the museum with a new relic or recording to keep in a safe place. Recently, he said that a woman donated 20 maps of Lawrence County’s earliest drainage descriptions from 1896, and this is just one example of donations that arrive regularly.
But all of these must be kept in a temperature-controlled, dust-free filing space in order to be properly preserved, Phillips said. The Black Hills Mining Museum does not currently have such space, and that is one of the many reasons for a new building.
“Clothing and paper must be stored in a suitable environment, otherwise they will disintegrate over time,” he said.
Other reasons for a new building, Phillips said, include making the museum fully ADA accessible with an elevator. Parking is also a major issue, as the Black Hills Mining Museum does not have ample parking for bus tours, caravans and caravans, or disabled spaces. Additional storage for the museum’s growing collection is also needed, he said.
“We could spend a fair amount of change to fix this building and not meet those goals,” Phillips said of the current facility.
In an effort to develop preliminary plans for a new building, Phillips contacted Tim Palone, an architect from Oklahoma City. Phillips, who met Palone while his family was on vacation in the Black Hills, said the architect offered to create the preliminary plans at no cost. Palone explained that the proposed facility would have two levels. The main level would be flush with the car park, allowing accessibility for disabled people. It would include a reception area, the public museum, a café area with gold panning, toilets and a space dedicated to underground mining simulation visits. Conference rooms and additional offices would also be included. An elevator and stairs would lead to a second level, where the museum would store its archival materials for research, along with support areas for staff and further storage.
“The design and intention is to represent the heritage and history of this community while providing a functional and efficient space that meets the needs of the museum,” he said. “It’s a concept. This is the start of a discussion. It is not representative of a final design. We also think the design could add a catwalk effect as you enter Lead and draw visitors into the museum.
A new municipal building that is proposed to be installed where the existing museum and library is currently located is another reason why the Black Hills Mining Museum is looking for new space. Phillips, who also sits on the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Town Planning and Zoning Council, said he reached out to Dream Designs, of Rapid City, to make what has long been a dream for the city – news library.
Mike Stanley of Dream Designs outlined the plans the company came up with to construct a brand new building that would replace the existing mining museum and library. The new building would include a two-level parking garage that would be accessible from Julius Street. A lift from the car park to the main building, as well as a grand staircase connecting Julius Street to Main. The new library, he said, would be located on one level, on the Julius Street side of the building, with windows, ample space and ADA accessibility. Three commercial dwellings and a public plaza would be located on the main street side of the building, on the main level. At the top level, Stanley said the company offers around 14 apartments or condominiums.
Stanley said the new building will be designed to complement the Homestake Opera House.
There has been no official city plan to move forward with this project, and it is still in discussion with city officials.
While the plans presented remain conceptual, Phillips asked the community to come together to help make the new museum a reality. Individuals combined generally donate more funds than corporations, so he asked the community to consider becoming a member of the Black Hills Mining Museum by making donations. He also said that there are opportunities for the community to help in other ways, including volunteering and raising awareness about the project.
“While it’s easy to think that others will have to give big, don’t overlook what you can do,” he said. “There were 17,000 hours of volunteer work to put together the original museum. We really won’t be able to move forward until we know we have community support, business support, grants, etc. It is also important to get the word out. The more people there are who hear about this and learn what we are thinking about, it helps us identify people who can help.
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