Days of ’76 Museum

When Don Clowser came to Deadwood in 1927, he was 12 years old. On his journey from Iowa to South Dakota, he observed American Indians traveling on foot, in wagons, and on horseback on their way to participate in the Days of '76 Celebration, an annual occasion celebrating the discovery of gold in 1876.

Clowser's early journey sparked a love of the American West and inspired him to collect its art and artifacts. When Clowser grew up, he became the owner of the Deadwood Trading Post and spent the rest of his life building his remarkable collection. The Clowser Collection includes horse-drawn carriages, moccasins and other garments, weaponry, photographs, artwork, journals, and many other artifacts. It tells the stories of both Northern Plains tribes and Old West pioneers in a uniform setting, which is accessible to the people whose patrimony it explores.

In 2008, Save America's Treasures awarded a grant for $272,700 to Deadwood's Days of '76 Museum to stabilize and conserve the Clowser Collection. This grant was part of a large-scale effort to rebuild the museum, which was formerly housed in an uninsulated pole barn. Matched by a $3 million gift by the City of Deadwood, the Save America's Treasures grant stimulated local interest and enabled the museum to create a long-term sustainability plan to house and care for the Clowser Collection.

KayKarol Horse Capture, a conservator in private practice who has assessed the condition of the collection's Native American beads, feathers, and leather, has called it "a unique statement, extensive, and important." Now, with Save America's Treasures support, she and other conservators will begin to treat these fragile materials. 

A new, 32,000-square-foot main museum will soon house the historically-significant collections of Western and Native American artifacts, archives, photos, and artwork. The two-story edifice will greet visitors at the gateway to Deadwood. Museum Director Deborah Gangloff said, "The Save America's Treasures grant was a godsend and a lifesaver. Without Save America's Treasures, we would have had a hard time finding funds to care for these materials, since collections in remote areas like ours have few options for funding. The origins of the grant are so beautiful – you don't get more American than the grant that saved the Star-Spangled Banner. It is a powerful tool to speak to people to let them know that these things are part of our national identity."

The new museum will open in June 2011.