PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The Noem administration wants to renovate and modernize South Dakota’s Cultural Heritage Center.

The museum and the collection housing thousands of historical artifacts will need to close during the work, State Historical Society director Ben Jones said Wednesday.

The museum’s contents and the center’s collection would be transferred to other storage space in stages and gradually return.

The target date for reopening the structure to the public, Jones told the House Education Committee, is 2026. The center, which is built into a hillside, opened to the public in 1989, coinciding with the centennial. of South Dakota’s statehood.

But the design has since caused problems for the building’s structure. The committee endorsed the project Wednesday and moved HB 1047 over to the House Appropriations Committee for a decision on the funding.

For the project, the state Department of Education, which oversees the State Historical Society, seeks $8,881,785 in general funds, and authority for another $3,301,800 that would come from other sources, primarily through fundraising by the society’s non-profit foundation.

Private donations and fundraising paid for the museum’s exhibits over the course of the first 15 years that the center was open, Jones said. He described the building as “iconic” and said the museum drew 16,000 visitors in the past year.

Among the archives’ holdings is the handwritten original South Dakota constitution. Jones showed to the committee some mockups of the new-look exterior, as well as photographs from the 32-year-old building regarding its wear, such as cracked walls from settling, a piling coming through the floor, and a variety of other issues.

To modernize the building, the plan calls for a new Arikara-style lodge that would be added to the front and would serve as an education room; moving the parking lot closer; laying two sidewalks, one with steps and one with a flatter grade for ADA accessibility; re-roofing the center; and making many interior changes, such as adding a mezzanine for storage of more artifacts, converting an unused room and re-purposing one of the two unloading bays.

How long the facility is closed to the public would depend on the fundraising pace, Jones said. Representative Sam Marty, R-Prairie City, asked a question that a life-long rancher, such as Marty, would naturally have about what happens when soil shifts against load-bearing walls: “How are they going to rectify this again?”

Jones said the consulting firm, ISG, is considering putting a foot-plus of space between the surrounding hill and the walls. Marty asked what would fill the space.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Jones answered.

Representative Sue Peterson, R-Sioux Falls, asked where the other funds will come from. Jones said $250,000 is tagged from the museum account that receives funds from the state tourism tax, with the $3 million-plus remainder coming from donations.

Peterson also questioned the 10% allowance for ‘soft costs’ in the plan. State Administration Commissioner Scott Bollinger said soft costs cover non-construction work related to construction, such as concrete testing. The amount designated for soft costs varies, Bollinger said, “depending on the complexity of the project.”

Bollinger added that the building sits on Pierre shale and has already shown movement, and the project is intended to stop the movement. He said ISG is a regional firm, with an office in Sioux Falls, that state government has previously used, and ISG has brought in another firm with experience in museum design.

The legislation received only yes votes from the committee. “Our history deserves to be told and preserved,” Representative Will Mortenson, R-Pierre, said. “Our state history museum should also be a destination.”

Peterson called the improvements and maintenance “long overdue” and supported the concept, while suggesting that House appropriators could dig deeper into the estimates.

She also praised Jones, who was moved to the role of director and state historian in December 2020, after starting as secretary of education when Kristi Noem took office as governor in January 2019.

“I believe Dr. Jones is the right person to lead this effort,” Peterson said.