Column: It takes a community to keep museum alive, growing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 26, 2003

“Hi, This is Kathy from the museum. We’re having a school tour on Wednesday, and we were wondering if you could help us out?&uot;

It takes a community to keep the museum alive and growing. The staff and more than 75 volunteers are involved in the many programs that we undertake, and maintaining a historical village is no small matter.

In 2002, volunteers spent more than 4,000 hours helping to make the Freeborn County Historical Musewn a better place. Maybe they guided school children through the village, or clipped obituaries from the newspapers, or planted herbs, or rebuilt a porch, or demonstrated how to embroider a dish towel, or provided any one of a multitude of skills. We simply would not exist without the volunteers.

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As I wondered just how we would go about thanking everyone for providing us with expertise in so many dffferent areas, I felt a huge debt of gratitude to each and every one of them.

Presently we have volunteers who: serve on the board of directors making tough decisions regarding the administration of the organization; help to raise funds to cover operating expenses; do genealogical and historical research; or plan events such as the fashion show, the melodrama, the World War II German POW program, the Eddie Cochran Weekend root beer float sale, Autumn in the Village, Voices From the Past, and the Christmas open house (and this planning includes working at the events).

Other volunteers coordinate school activities, programs, Discover History, summer camps, and children’s tours; fold newsletters; bake cookies; host on Saturday afternoons; paint village buildings; make phone calls during the membership drives; build displays; plant flowers; proof read library indexes; inventory clothing for packing in preservation boxes; shovel snow; mow the lawn; pull weeds; publicize events; repair anything that gets broken; demonstrate spinning or wood carving or driving the John Deere; spray preservative on logs; and help in many, many more ways.

Meanwhile the staff is sitting around twiddling their collective thumbs. I’M JOKING!

The small museum staff also deserves a great deal of thanks for working under conditions that are less than ideal.

The archives and clothing storage areas are so crowded that each time I go in there, I am reminded of a comment made by Robert Myers, for many years the Albert Lea High School music director. All of the choruses were to be on the stage for the Christmas concert finale, and he told us that some of us would be suspended from the ceiling on hooks. While we knew he was not serious, it did seem like a good idea, and we could certainly use that same theory at the museum.

Linda Evenson, librarian, works wonders with the shelving and outdated equipment that is in the library/archive area.

Kathy Freese, administrative assistant, can produce a beautiful brochure or poster using only her computer skills and our 13-year-old copy machine, and Kathy Mandt, office assistant, spends hours this time of the year cheerfully matching volunteers with duties. There are times when Shirley Hamer and Richard Aarback, the museum and village custodial and collections care staff, wonder just how much longer the old vacuum cleaner will hold out and question how all of the village buildings will be ready for the May tours. Dawn Rozinka is the much appreciated Saturday receptionist from May through September. And I am truly privileged to be working with all of the people in this historical community.

If you have some free time and an interest in helping out, please give us a call at 373-8003. We would be happy to send you a volunteer brochure or to visit with you about all of the museum happenings. And I need to add, none of this would be happening if it weren’t for the membership income and donations provided by our supporters. Freeborn County residents and former residents all help to keep the doors open.

I had stated earlier that I didn’t know how to thank all of the people who share their time and skills and financial support to make the museum a viable part of our community, a museum that reaches out nationwide with its services. Maybe the thank you note that we received recently from an elementary student says it best.

“Dear Pioneer Park Guides,

&uot;Thank you for sowing us what it was like in pioneer days. I liked the jail and school. That was nice of you to sowe us the museum. I have never went to a museum with nice pople. I love the museum.

&uot;Your sened graed fanid, Julie”\

Bev Jackson is the executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum.