Old Courthouse Museum Exhibits

Pheasants on the Plains

Pheasants on the Plains

Pheasants, while not native to the United States, have made the Midwest their home. After a slow start in the rugged land, pheasants started to thrive and helped replenish the wild bird population in the Midwest. South Dakota’s first hunting season was held in 1919. The bird’s popularity quickly grew. Neighboring states like Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota followed with their own pheasant seasons in 1924, 1925, 1927, and 1932 respectively. People from across the country and world came in droves to hunt on the beautiful prairies, and the pheasant has become an iconic and important symbol for the region. The pheasant influenced what people ate, cheered for, and even wore. This is as true today as it was a century ago.

The upcoming exhibit Pheasants on the Prairie takes a closer look at South Dakota’s state bird. The exhibit will focus on all aspects of the pheasant. We will take a look at how the bird first came to the United States, how pheasants survive during the diverse Midwest weather, and of course, how pheasant hunting began in South Dakota.

Native American Tool Design

Native American Tool Design Exhibit Opening in August at the Old Courthouse Museum

Artifacts are often our only physical connection to the past. Some of the most unifying artifacts across cultures are tools. While many of these artifacts may not be linked to important historical events or figures, they are essential to understanding past cultures and their daily lives. Our next exhibit, Native American Tool Design, is an artifact-focused attempt to explore the effects of tools within a culture.

The Native American Tool Design exhibit will give us a way to examine the beauty of tools. The exhibit focuses on artifacts from North America which are made up of materials that include bone, stone, grass, wood, clay, and metal. These tools show the craftmanship and invention of North America’s earliest inhabitants.

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Scenes of Sioux Falls: A Photograhic Journey

Scenes of Sioux Falls: A Photographic Journey

We take photographs to remember. In a way, photographs serve as historic documents. They preserve what once was and allow us to view the important events in our lives.

At first glance, these photographs of Sioux Falls appear to be just street views and buildings, scenes that were carefully composed to convey the prominent features of our city. Regardless of their subject, they are tools to help us view Sioux Falls’ past. They confirm where buildings were, what businesses occupied them, and they show a growing and ever-changing community.     

The exhibit Scenes of Sioux Falls: A Photographic Journey is a great way to navigate the memories we share. Some images were taken by professional photographers, while others are snapshots taken by amateurs. Regardless of who took these photographs, they help us examine the past.

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The Bottle and the Ballot: Prohibition and Women’s Suffrage

Some may find it surprising that there was a time when consuming alcohol was a crime and women did not have voting rights. In fact, these two issues had been debated for over a century. Both were at the forefront during the Progressive Era, a time of political and social reform in America. Some women saw that the only hope of passing nationwide prohibition was if women received the vote. In South Dakota, women organized groups, published newspapers, and held speaking tours to get both measures passed. Soon after South Dakota passed statewide prohibition and granted women the franchise, the 18th and 19th Amendments did the same at the national level.

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Let's Ride: Vintage MotorcyclesLet’s Ride: Vintage Motorcycles

At the Old Courthouse Museum!

By the late nineteenth century, bicycling was an established pastime and competitive activity throughout the world. As the bicycle gained in popularity, innovative entrepreneurs developed new technologies to improve riding. One offshoot of these efforts was the attempt to motorize bicycles. Some of the first motorcycles in the United States were made by Waltham Manufacturing Company in 1899, adapting a heavyweight roadster bicycle to fit a small engine imported by the Aster company of France under the name Orient-Aster. Many other companies followed suit, including Indian, Harley-Davidson, and Excelsior. A legitimate motorcycle industry was booming in the United States, with nearly 100 makers building their own bikes prior to the market crash of 1929. Today, motorcycles are produced for leisure, touring, racing, and the military.

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Sioux Falls Municipal BandSioux Falls Municipal Band


In the late 19th and early 20th century, thousands of bands were formed across the United States to play for theaters, entertainment, civic pride, and competition. These bands were popular in their communities, because they did not have to compete against radio or recordings. Sioux Falls had a number of bands like these, but an earnest effort to form a municipal band in Sioux Falls began in 1919. The city election was held on April 15, 1919, and the proposition to form a band passed 2,452 to 2,282. For the past 100 years, the Sioux Falls Municipal Band has played at local events, parades, retirement communities, and of course the Sioux Falls Parks. Learn about the band, directors, players, and more at our latest exhibit.

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What was your favorite toy growing up? Was it a stuffed animal, a cherished Barbie doll, or a heroic action figure? Regardless of the toy, that question undoubtedly conjures up childhood memories of past toys. In our newest exhibit Toys, we take a look at all types of toys from the past. Maybe you’ll spot your favorite!

Children have been playing with toys for thousands of years. The earliest known playthings were sticks, balls, and carved figurines of people and animals. They were used to teach children cultural values as well as how to use weapons for hunting and warfare. Cultural and technological shifts over time changed the way people used toys. They became instrumental in childhood development; toys could both educate and entertain children.

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Previous Exhibits