- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - When the North Dakota Legislature is under way, Minot native Claudia Berg, will be the lead person for testimony and other work of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, the state’s museum and history agency in Bismarck.

Berg, who has been with the agency for more than 30 years, worked her way up in its ranks, the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1xcJ3Ux ) reported. She was named its new director in September, replacing Merl Paaverud, who held the position since 2001 and retired in November.

Berg said staffing for the State Historical Society continues to be a need. “As we prepare for the upcoming legislative session the staffing request focuses on our visitors’ experiences with front line staff, educators, and security officers,” she said.

She said the Stutsman County Courthouse in Jamestown and Fort Totten State Historic Site near Devils Lake are also priorities for further building repairs and program development.

“Efforts continue with supporting the 170 county and local museums in North Dakota with grant programs. They, like the Heritage Center, are the keepers of North Dakota’s heritage. As the state continues to grow, it is our responsibility to preserve and interpret the past but also the present,” Berg said.

“We have recently completed fourth, eighth and high school North Dakota Studies curriculum. This is a milestone for teachers and students to access the history of North Dakota,” Berg added.

Born and raised in Minot, Berg graduated from Minot High School and from the University of North Dakota with a bachelor of arts degree in fine art and a master of fine arts in printmaking.

“Several friends and I as junior high (now middle school) students were candy stripers at Trinity Hospital. One year we were invited to attend a statewide candy striper convention at UND. It was my first visit to that campus. After spending a day at UND, I decided that was where I was going to go to college,” Berg said.

Berg’s parents, Glen and Norma Berg, live in Minot. Both are retired city employees. “Dad ran the water treatment plant and Mom was in the city manager’s office,” she said.

Berg visits Minot at various times during the year. She said she looks forward to Norsk Hostfest every year where the Historical Society has a booth. “It is where I often see old friends and some relatives,” she said.

Over the past two years, she has also assisted the Scandinavian Heritage Association in Minot with some museum planning and before that, the State Historical Society assisted the Ward County Historical Society with flood recovery.

Berg was in college when she developed an interest in museums. She said art was her focus but she studied as much fine art, commercial art and art history as possible.

Her museum career started Sept. 1, 1981, as the first graphics designer for the State Historical Society.

“The agency had moved into the new Heritage Center earlier that year. As new positions were supported, I moved to the newly created exhibits curator position two years later. It was in this position that I realized that this state’s history was fascinating. I will confess that I do not remember learning much about North Dakota history in school. It wasn’t until I started working at the Heritage Center that North Dakota history came alive,” Berg said.

Berg was the curator of exhibits for 16 years. “It was in this position, researching, writing and designing for exhibits that I became aware of the depth of our state’s history,” she said.

In 1999 she was promoted to Museum and Education director, overseeing the artifact collections, exhibition, education, visitor services and publications programs.

In 2007 when planning for Phase II of the expansion became available she accepted the expansion coordinator position. “Phase I of the expansion was the State Archives that opened in 2007. Following that project we undertook the next phase of expansion that we celebrated on November 2, 2014,” she said.

Berg said the Historical Society has a statewide mission and she finds it enjoyable traveling to the agency’s historic sites, communities and museums across the state.

“Every town has its own unique character and history, stopping at the local cafe provides the unique taste, as well,” she said.

She said the Historical Society has numerous program partners that are statewide the arts council, humanities council, North Dakota State University Extension, to name a few. “Working with and combining resources has provided better programs for the state’s constituencies,” Berg said.

“North Dakota has many talented and dedicated people. It is a pleasure to work with them on preserving and presenting our heritage,” Berg said. “Now that I know more about the geology, geography, culture and heritage, traveling across North Dakota is a true adventure. Appreciating the landscape, understanding transportation routes, recognizing architectural styles, and tracing trails of those who came before make traveling the state very enjoyable. We are working on sharing this type of information creating heritage tourism opportunities in North Dakota.”

The State Historical Society’s mission is to identify, preserve, interpret and promote the heritage of North Dakota and its people, Berg said.

“One of the agency’s primary responsibilities is with the collections. Working with documents and objects is fascinating, piecing together stories to share with our visitors is a wonderful experience. There are millions of items in our collections and each piece can help tell a story. Walking up and down the aisles looking at thousands of years of history is an amazing experience,” Berg said.

On Nov. 3, 2014, Gov. Jack Dalrymple and First Lady Betsy Dalrymple joined former governors and first ladies, state and local officials, and fellow North Dakotans to celebrate the $51.7 million, 97,000-square-foot expansion of the North Dakota Heritage Center and opening of the center’s final two galleries to the public. The grand opening coincided with the state’s 125th anniversary of statehood which occurred on Nov. 2, 1889, when North Dakota was admitted to the Union. South Dakota was also admitted that day.

Berg said the discussion and planning for the expansion began with a Governors’ Forum on the 20th anniversary of the Heritage Center.

“Statewide planning, architectural designing, and fundraising initiatives began in 2001 and Phase I, the State Archives expansion, opened in 2007 and Phase II grand opening on November 2nd, was 13 years in the making,” Berg said.

When the agency knew there was legislative support for Phase II, Berg became the expansion coordinator. “As the liaison between constituencies, staff, architects, the (State Historical Society) Foundation staff, boards, and contractors, there were daily tasks from big picture visioning to identify placement of electrical outlets,” Berg said.

“We now have the expansion open and in seven months we have welcomed 150,000 visitors, exceeding our annual visitation of 100,000 visitors,” Berg said.

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Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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