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Archive for September, 2022

Although both the W. H. Over Museum and the National Music Museum (NMM) have distinctly different items they collect and the NMM is part of the University of South Dakota (USD), whereas the W. H. Over Museum resides on the USD campus, but is not part of USD, at one time both called the Carnegie Library building home.

The USD Carnegie Library construction was finished and occupied in 1911 when USD enrollment was 425 students according to Cummins’ book (Cummins, Cedric C. The University of South Dakota, 1862-1966. Vermillion, SD: Dakota Press, 1975). By the later part of the 1930’s USD student enrollment doubled, and President I. D. Weeks promoted the enlargement of the building.  On Thursday, October 10, 1940, dedication exercises for the expanded library were held. The major addition, constructed of Indiana Bedford limestone, doubled the capacity of the building.

Twenty years later, enrollment doubled yet again necessitating the construction of a new library on campus. This would become the I. D. Weeks Library. In 1967 President Weeks suggested that the W. H. Over Museum, founded in 1883 by the Board of Regents known as the University Museum, occupy the old Carnegie Library building. The Over Museum had occupied several sites on campus including University Hall, the Science building, and the basement of Slagle Hall.

 In 1967, not only did Over call the Carnegie building the Over Museum’s home, but space was given to a newly hired music professor, Arne B. Larson who brought with him over 2,000 instruments. Most instruments were initially stored in Old Main.  In addition, prominent Yanktonai Dakota artist and professor Oscar Howe had his studio and a gallery in the Carnegie building. He was also assistant director of the W. H. Over Museum. 

In 1973, Andre’ Larson, Arne Larson’s son, founded and became director of the Shrine to Music Museum and the Center for the Study of the History of Musical Instruments which included his father’s collection donated to the University of South Dakota. Andre’ Larson was a consummate collector of rare and important musical instruments, books, documents, and other ephemera.

By the early 1980’s the Shrine to Music Museum was expanding and President Joseph McFadden did not renew the Over Museum’s lease for the occupancy of the Carnegie building in 1984. In addition, in 1980 Oscar Howe retired from the University and in 1983 passed away. The consequences were that the Shrine to Music Museum acquired the entire Carnegie building (AMIS newsletter Vol. xv, No.2, June 1986, Dedication of the renovated Shrine to Music Museum). By contrast, Friends of the W. H. Over Museum, raised funds to build a new museum located east of the DakotaDome. The Chair of the fundraising committee for nine years (1984-1993) was General Lloyd Moses.  In 2001, the Shrine to Music Museum changed its name to the National Music Museum and in 2018 major renovations to the Carnegie building commenced including construction of a new wing. In 2022, a ribbon cutting signaled the completion of the construction project, although developing the exhibits in the Carnegie building is ongoing.

In 2023, the W. H. Over Museum will celebrate its 140th year and the NMM its 50th year. Stay tuned for their celebrations.

Photograph thanks to Dr. Margaret Banks illustrating the enlarged Carnegie Library building in 1983 when it served as home for the Shrine to Music Museum, the W. H. Over Museum, and Oscar Howe’s Gallery. Note the lighter limestone addition to the rear of the original building.

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