LeRoy Kautz’s commitment to preserve and promote the surveying profession has created a new tourist spot in North Dakota.

For several years now, Kautz, a registered land surveyor who has been in the profession for 44 years, and his colleague, Russ Kastelle, RLS, have been planning a museum and learning center in Jamestown, N.D., to showcase surveying’s instruments of yesteryear along with historical maps and various other references. Kautz and some pals entirely renovated a former granary situated in Frontier Village, the second busiest tourist spot in North Dakota, into the state’s first land surveyors museum (Theodore Roosevelt National Park 240 miles away in Medora is No. 1).

An old frontier town near Highway 281 and Interstate 94, Frontier Village is known for its National Buffalo Museum and attracts more than 100,000 people every year with its old-style post office, trading post, saloon, fire department, barber shop, jail, sheriff’s office, the state’s oldest grocery store, and stagecoach and pony rides. Kautz dedicated hours to remodel the 16 x 24-square-foot building, including installing a vaulted ceiling, wiring for lighting, insulation and new flooring.

His dream museum opened Memorial Day weekend. Each year, Kautz says, the museum will transform with new relics to tell the story of surveying to visitors.

“[We want to get] people informed about the profession,” Kautz says. “There’s a lot of people that just have no clue what we do. It’s one of the professions that the technology in the last hundred years has changed many times,” he continues. “And I don’t think a lot of people realize that.”

To this end, the museum displays historical instruments juxtaposed with modern-day equipment, including a Wild Distomat, HP 3810A, AGA Geodimeter, Topcon DM-S1, and K&E AutoRanger 2 EDMs. “I don’t think anybody is ready to let go of their GPS,” Kautz says, “but right up to the total stations we’re going to have a display of instruments so [visitors] can see how the technology has changed over the years.”

Original sextant corners/quarter corners of the north part of Dakota Territory are showcased with information such as how they were marked according to the BLM Manual of Instructions for the Survey of the Public Lands of the United States. A reproduction of Lewis and Clark’s Dakota Territory map shows visitors how the expedition charted the Missouri River on their way to the Pacific Ocean. “A good portion of the Lewis and Clark Expedition two hundred years ago went right through North Dakota,” Kautz says. “On [our] map, I’ve outlined the state of North Dakota, and I’ve located Jamestown, where the museum is. That way, they can place themselves exactly where we’re at.” Kautz says the information included in the surveying exhibit is mainly of North Dakota, “but it’s representative of the entire rectangular system, which is the majority of the United States.”

Instruments and other relics have been provided by surveyors in the state, many of them members of the North Dakota Society of Professional Land Surveyors who know Kautz as the chairman of the historical committee for the last 20 years.

At summer’s end, Kautz, Kastelle and others will lock up the exhibit and return the many borrowed items. They’ll convene to discuss ways to improve the exhibit−the new, cool surveyors tourist site.

To contact the editor, send an e-mail to hohnerl@bnpmedia.