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Posted on 4/4/2014

By Lauren Donovan, The Bismarck Tribune

WASHBURN - A wedding will be held at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, the lucky couple celebrating marriage in an elegant venue flanked by patios with a splendid view of the Missouri River below.

The wedding is not so much the landmark - though who doesn't love a wedding, after all?

What is landmark is the idea that the new events facility, recently added to the west side of the interpretive center, is available for business meetings and gatherings of all kinds.

The events center with a lofted ceiling, banks of windows and glowing cherry wood is the crown jewel of a 9,000-square-foot addition and was made possible in part by a gift from Garrison banker Wayne Stroup and his wife, the late Bernice Stroup.

And it is, as executive director David Borlaug likes to point out, at a highway crossroads to all four points on the compass, a place far more discoverable now than when explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's Corps of Discovery Expedition arrived 210 years ago.

"This was the real impetus for this addition, being able to do more things here," Borlaug said.

The second impetus is one few will ever see. It's the archival room in the basement, where more than 7,000 items are catalogued and stored at a constant

60 degrees with 48 percent humidity.

It is the domain of Kevin Kirkey, interpretive resource manager, who is to the archive what Aladdin is to the cave, master of all treasures. In this case, the treasures are more meaningful than gold. Gold can be mined anew, but such things as a rare, blue medallion formed from melted glass trade beads and found beneath the soil of a Mandan-Hidatsa village come to light only once in history.

The archival treasures of art and artifacts will be rotated through the interpretive center in years and exhibits to come.

The downstairs archives may, in some circumstances, be used in conjunction with the new library up above, which contains rare manuals, journals and historical reference material.

"If someone needs to make reference to an item, we could probably accommodate that," Kirkey said.

Borlaug said the addition and revamped interpretive areas were created to reflect the fact that Lewis and Clark's expedition took place in an age of enlightenment.

"We wanted a feeling of elegance, not ‘kill the bear,'" he said.

He said the center has undergone a significant transformation, with state-of-the-art interactive materials, and visitors can as easily spend an hour there as a day.

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