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SD Cultural Heritage Center Collaborates With Minuteman Missile National Historic Site on Exhibit

National Park Service

The Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre is partnering with the Minuteman Missile National Historic site to give visitors a glimpse into the Cold War. The exhibit opens in June and will display several pieces of technology from the historic site, including the guidance section of a minuteman missile.

The collaboration between the national historic site and the Cultural Heritage Museum has been a year in the making.

Jay Smith is the Director of the Museum of the South Dakota State Historical Society. Smith says it was clear there was a story to tell after spending three days speaking with the staff at the missile site about its history.

“It was absolutely fascinating and what became clear to me then was, there is a South Dakota Story to tell within that framework that was unique to the locations, and to our state and to the people who live West River,” Smith says.

He says they want to focus on the site’s impact on South Dakota rather than simply following up on the exhibits the missile site already has on display.

Eric Leonard is the superintendent of the Minute Man Missile National Historic Site.  He has been working with Jay Smith to bring some of the site’s exhibits to the museum. Leonard says the collaboration with the historical society is a natural partnership. He says people don’t think of the national parks as collectors of museum objects, but the national parks system is second only to the Smithsonian.

“The silo is one of only two places in America where the public can go to a cold war nuclear missile silo, once maintained by the US Air Force, walk in, look at the equipment and then look down the hole at what was once the loaded gun of nuclear Armageddon,” Leonard says.

He says they recently finished another two-year project gathering interviews with individuals who worked at the site when it was still active. He says this is a recent story and it is imperative to gather these interviews while the people involved are still around to give them.