Dunn County Museum Portal to the past is a statewide gem inside a traditional farmer steel building.

The huge building on the hill in Northwest Dunn Center holds the passageway to the past.

A portal to the past looks over a historic Dunn County valley. Perched on the hill where another generation went to school, a winding road leads to a virtual time machine of solid, tangible days gone by.



Visitors have a choice: which way to go when they step into the portal and each turn opens new visions of yesteryear.





A U.S. Army Cavalry Wagon is on display at the Dunn County Museum in Dunn Center

One of the larger pieces in the many buildings that make up the Dunn County Museum is the fully restored U.S. Army Cavalry Wagon.


Preserving the connection

Visitors who enter the Dunn County Museum are presented with a huge area of well-crafted displays.

Museum staff and assistants on this journey to the past take their responsibility seriously. With daily effort, they give life to what had been dissolving into the prairie. “We’re the keepers of history.  If we didn’t keep these items, people would lose a connection with their parents and grandparents.  It gives people a sense of appreciation for what they have now compared to back in the ‘good ol’ days,’ ” said Susi Weisz, the Dunn County Museum Curator.

“Everything you look at brings back memories,” said Cathy Trampe, Dunn County Museum Chair.

Washing machines on display at the Dunn County Museum

A step back in time reminds families that laundry day used to be a major endeavor.

Pull off of Highway 200 and drive north through Dunn Center, up the hill to the west and into the thorough and rich gateway to Dunn County’s story. 

Signs mark the way to the northwestern corner of Dunn Center to get to the Dunn County Museum.

Follow the signs in Dunn Center to get to the Dunn County Museum.


From days of early man on the prairie, through the Wild West, through the county’s development, visitors mentally enter into the lives of earlier generations.   


Cream Can Supper

Many people schedule their trip to coincide with the annual Cream Can Supper. Coming up after Labor Day, the event gives a visitor a different taste of the past.  The Cream Can Supper on September 9, is a fundraiser for the museum.  The cook uses cream cans to prepare supper: a corn, cabbage, onion and sausage mix.  Others bring desserts or make ice cream on the spot while local musicians entertain.

For some, the Cream Can Supper is their first visit to the museum, but it will likely not be their last.  Return visits are common because it is difficult for people to see everything in just one trip. They tell Trampe, “I don’t have as much time as I’d like to spend here. I’m going to have to come back. “


A growing collection

When they do return, they can see things that were not there on their first visit because the museum continues to grow, “Every time there’s a board meeting there’s always some new items to evaluate, “ said Weisz. “If we didn’t show these items, people would not have a chance to learn about the lives of their parents and grandparents.”

The Vang Lutheran Church memorabilia on display at the Dunn County Museum

The Dunn County Museum is rich with the history of regional churches of all denominations such as this display that includes the Vang Lutheran Church memorabilia.

Trampe said, “Everyone who comes here has their own likes. Some come for the artifacts, some like the homesteader shack, some come for the church display.”  Local rural churches at one time served many purposes from religious services to social gatherings, even political events were at local churches.  Most of those rural country churches are gone now, but some of the beautiful items from those churches are at the Dunn County Museum, from hymnals to stained glass windows.

A 1929 Nash on display at the Dunn County Museum

The 1929 Nash on display at the Dunn County Museum is the result of meticulous work on what was just a junk body in a prairie south of Dunn Center.

Trampe has her own favorite item in the multi-building collection; it’s her 1929 Nash on loan to the museum.

A 1929 Nash is rescued from a Dunn County pasture

Discovered in a Dunn County pasture this 1929 Nash was fully restored to show, on loan to the Dunn County Museum


The exquisitely restored car was rescued from a nearby pasture and rebuilt piece by piece. It sits with other restored vehicles in the transportation building.





A fully restored one-room school house is ready to host classes at the Dunn County Museum Portal to the past

A fully-restored one-room school-house hosts a local class in the spring.


Attractions for children

The museum is actually several buildings, some of which are joined together. Children are encouraged to explore them all.  With an active imagination, they can see themselves in the school displays.  One is inside the main building, segregated neatly with desks, chairs, and tools of the school.  The other school display is in a restored school build. Last school year, it hosted a class of local children from Killdeer who planned and prepared themselves to dress in period clothing. They packed a lunch in a syrup can, and marched to a school session in the old one-room school building.

Any time young visitors drop in, they are encouraged to look for special items. The museum offers children a scavenger hunt. Sending children off to find certain items gets them involved in examining the exhibits.


Path to the future

A Twin City is one of the rare tractors on display.

A Twin City tractor is one of the rare tractors on display.

Farm equipment sits outside at the Dunn County Museum

Farm equipment sits outside at the Dunn County Museum, but plans are underway to add to the collection when they can be housed indoors.

Even as the Dunn County Museum provides entry to the past, organizers are looking to the future.  Fundraisers and raffles help the museum build a planned agriculture building including an exhibit of ready-to-farm antique tractors. 

The path to the future also includes plans for the big white building at the entry to the Museum lot, the former Manning bank building.  As money is available, the bank interior will be furnished with original banking decor the museum already has on hand. 



From Manning North Dakota, this bank building was moved in to be restored at the Dunn County Museum.

If the Dunn County Museum is truly a portal to another time, this building represents the portal to the future. That’s because museum officials hope to raise enough money to beef up the bank building and install the memorabilia already on hand. A September 9 Cream Can Supper will help raise money for the future project.

The September 9 cream can supper will raise money for those future plans. The museum is on a growth path to create the portal for visitors step through to discover, preserve, and interpret the history of Dunn County and its role in settling this region of North America.

What are other museums in Western North Dakota do you recommend?

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