To collect, preserve, document, exhibit, research, study and interpret objects relating to natural and cultural history, primarily of South Dakota; and to provide interpretive exhibitions, educational programs, publications and other appropriate means of conveying an understanding and appreciation of this region.
W. H. Over Museum
Our collections include fossils, botanical and biological (natural) specimens, and cultural items related to the history of inhabitants of South Dakota and the Upper Northern Plains including Indigenous and land seeker histories.
In 1883 the University Museum of the University of Dakota was founded (now the University of South Dakota (USD)). The name of the museum was changed in honor of Dr. William Henry Over who was assistant director and then director of the museum for 35 years. Dr. Over, a born teacher, was interested in acquiring natural and cultural history objects from South Dakota and the Northern Plains and sharing that knowledge to people of all ages and backgrounds. Subsequent directors continued his traditions. The museum now contains over 80,000 objects in its collection.
As a means of supporting the museum, the Friends of the W. H. Over Museum was founded in 1967. The organization raised funds, supported museum activities, and ran a gift shop. In 1973, the management of the museum passed from USD to the South Dakota Cultural Preservation Department. Following the imminent loss of State funding in 1996, the Friends of the W. H. Over Museum incorporated to run the museum with the help of few paid staff and dedicated volunteers. Most items in the museum are donated from community members and organizations. For example, “Old Betsy,” the first motorized pumper fire truck in Vermillion purchased in 1923 was given to the museum from the Vermillion Fire Department.
The majority of the items in the collection were donated. Many items reside in our extensive vaults while others are integral parts of exhibits open to the public. Items in the collection can be used by researchers within and outside the State of South Dakota.
Admission is free.