New museum director ready for the challenge

Leslie Silverman

A new director recently took the helm at the Keystone Museum.

Casey Sullivan of Hill City is the museum’s new director. Sullivan is a recent graduate of University of South Dakota with a major in history and a minor in political science.

Sullivan found out the position was available by way of the former director, who now heads up the Hill City Arts Council.

“My parents and I went to an open mic in Hill City,” Sullivan said. “I met MacKenzie Swanson there. I learned she was the past director. That’s how I got wind of the opening.”

Sullivan, who had never been to the Keystone Museum prior to taking the position, recognizes the great opportunity this job is.

“I’ve always been very passionate about museum work, really since I was a kid,” he said. “I’ve wanted to do something like this. It’s a great platform to start.”

Sullivan is in charge of myriad artifacts ranging from Carrie Ingalls memorabilia to Keystone historical documents to traditional one-room school classrooms.

“I’m so impressed with the collection here,” Sullivan said. “It’s amazing to see what we have here. We want to showcase as much as we can.”

Sullivan’s favorite display is the Ingalls collection. About half of the patrons that come to the museum visit to see the Ingalls’ display.

One of the projects Sullivan and the museum board would like to undertake is to open the gymnasium.

“I know in the past that’s been a Mount Rushmore exhibit,” he said.  The gymnasium used to house rocks, minerals and mining equipment.

The museum hosts a living history program each spring to fourth graders from area schools that Sullivan is excited to bring back next year. The program was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 situation.

“The biggest thing now is to find the safest way to open and gradually make our way back to that program,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan is most excited about the research aspect of his new position.

“Growing up I was really into figuring out a story to artifacts,” he said. “The research part, that would normally dull anybody else, to me I think that’s the coolest part.”

Sullivan would like to update signage in the museum and make certain that upkeep on the 125-year-old building is maintained for the future.

Sullivan is also interested in working to get the museum’s online store as streamlined as possible. He sees the store as a good source of revenue for the museum, in addition to promoting to tourists what the museum has to offer.

The newest item in the online store is a recent book on the life of Carrie Ingalls. It is the only such book to ever be written.

Sullivan is excited to be taking on this undertaking.

“It’s kind of just opened up a whole new thing,” he said. “There’s just so much. I’m ready for the challenge.”

And while he’s only been on the job for a few weeks he’s already learning a lot.

“My second day here I was going through some of the Ingalls research,” Sullivan said. “I was dreadfully embarrassed to find out (Laura Ingalls Wilder) wrote most of the “Little House” books when she was 60. How they’re written, how they read, you would have thought she had a diary growing up.”

The museum does not have a firm opening date for the season due to coronavirus.

“We want to follow (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines as closely as possible,” Sullivan said.

What that looks like is not yet clear. The museum will update information about its opening on Facebook as well as on its website.

User login