Column: Donations make museum the treasure it is

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 9, 2005

The beginning of a new year is a fun time to look back and to look ahead, and I always enjoy reading the lists of &uot;The 10 Best…&uot; or &uot;The 10 Worst…&uot;

This year I thought I’d share with you a museum list &045; items donated in 2004.

The following is only a portion of the 171 artifacts that were donated, and it does not include the more than 6,000 photographs, slides, negatives, indexing notebooks, newspaper clippings and card files from the Bidney Bergie estate.

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In 2004, donors gave to the museum: a hand-quilted centerpiece &045; proving that this age-old craft that once warmed the pioneers is still alive warming the hearts of quilters and the recipients of their gifts; a 14-by-16 inch glass sign which once hung in Skinner Chamberlain that advertises “The Penn Overalls and Coats&uot;; a complete World War II Navy uniform, oftentimes one item will come in &045; a jacket or a shirt &045; so a complete uniform is indeed a treasure; a centennial clock in a wooden case with bronze statuary. It was first designed in 1876 to celebrate the first 100 years of our country’s heritage.

The donor list continues: a fire extinguishing kit with several red glass balls containing liquid for putting out fires with the balls packed in woven hair padding; a meat grinder; a quilt made of old suits; the cornerstone of the 1954 courthouse; a 1970s menu sign from the Elbow Room in Albert Lea &045; home of the world’s best hamburgers; an Albert Lea High School souvenir doll from 1946 in cherry and blue felt clothing; a beautiful seven-foot solid oak cabinet designed for displaying a dress worn by Marion Ross on &uot;Happy Days.&uot;

And there’s more: Two books written by former Mayor Marv Wangen based on biographical and political interests; an iron shoe last used for shoe repair; numerous pieces of clothing and hats for men, women and children; Dick and Jane books and basic readers; family histories; a prism glass used in early sidewalks to let the light in the coal bins; a World War I saddlebag used by dogs to carry supplies to soldiers on the front lines, this one required a considerable amount of research. It was donated as a saddle bag for a horse, but it was so small that we questioned its use; Viking Accordion Band CDs which provide wonderful background music for our visitors at special events; a six-year baby crib with bumper pads and homemade quilts.

And more: A John Lacis water color of Fountain Lake; a 1907 wedding dress with accompanying photograph of the bride and groom and their marriage license; a wire and wooden crate from the Albert Lea Bakery; a wooden pants hanger from Unique Cleaners and Dyers; a Native American ax head found near Albert Lea Lake; a small rectangular dish with the picture of Albert Lea College originally sold at Skinner Chamberlains; the 400 page hand written manuscript of ‘The Basket Social’ by former county attorney, Rudolph Hanson; a section of a telephone switch board; &uot;The Iowa Journal of History and Politics&uot; containing articles about Albert Miller Lea and his report on the Des Moines River.

The list also included: A 1925 framed sample of hair art; a wooden suitcase containing a 30-minute, steel air tank and face mask used by the Albert Lea Fire Department in the 1970s; a 1930s battery operated radio, a typewriter, file cabinets, and almost-new computers; and a greenbean cutter.

It takes a history-oriented staff and 100 volunteers to blend this unusual grouping of artifacts and archival materials into an organized, well displayed, and well interpreted history complex.

The Freeborn County Historical Museum is a treasure, a place to be very proud of.

THANK YOU for your generosity in 2004!

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