Heritage Hall Museum & Archives has over 20,000 items on display.
The Heritage Hall Museum and Archives strives to preserve, educate and foster appreciation for the diverse natural and cultural history of the greater Freeman area, settled largely by Germans from Russia in the 1870s.
Heritage Hall Museum welcomes individuals and families, as well as school and tour groups. Large groups are encouraged to call ahead to arrange for guides as needed.
The story of the Germans from Russia who settled in Southeastern South Dakota and the building up of the community of Freeman.
Open May 1 through September 30
or by appointment
Ours is an unintentional museum. What today is known as Heritage Hall Museum & Archives began as a collection. A collection that grew in to this amazing South Dakota Museum.
The museum’s story begins in the 1920s, when Freeman College Professor Benjamin P. Waltner asked his students to bring interesting rocks and fossils to study. By 1930, the Freeman Junior College Catalog listed the collection as “a museum of geology and mineralogy.” And so it began.
People from the community brought in more rocks and fossils, as well as Native American artifacts and random items used by the pioneers who had settled the area just a generation or two earlier. This eclectic collection outgrew the school halls and was moved to the original college building – today’s “Music Hall” – in the early 1940s.
In the 1950s, the 2nd floor of the Tieszen Industrial Arts Building became the new home for this unintentional museum. It is during these years that we find the first notes of accessions donated to the cause and lists of the artifacts on display: 2 plows, 2 copper kettles, 4 wooden rakes, 1 cabbage cutter, 4 mud bricks, 2 oxen yokes, 1 buffalo head, 1 street lamp, 1 hand grenade, 1 doctor’s chair, 1 surrey… and the list goes on.
By the 1970s, this fledgling museum had once again outgrown its confines and moved to a new building just south of the Freeman Academy campus. A 1998 addition almost doubled the floor space available. Here also, the growing archives collection was given its first formal home.
Over time, several historic buildings were added to the museum complex. Each historic building has a unique story that adds dimension and depth to understanding the early years of the greater Freeman community.
Fast forward to 2018. We now have three part-time paid staff that together equal just one full-time position. We rely heavily on volunteers and we rely solely on admission fees, memberships and donations in order to operate.
We have one of the area’s most unique and diverse collections of items that represent our heritage and the history of this community. You would be hard-pressed to find another museum in the region that has a collection to rival ours. We are both a tourist destination and a resource for students and scholars alike.We invite you to participate in the work that is being done at Heritage Hall Museum & Archives. Become a member, stop by and volunteer for a few hours, lend your expertise to develop a new display, consider a monetary gift that will help the work here continue.