County historical museum educates all ages

Published 10:00 am Saturday, February 11, 2012

Column: Pat Mulso, Preserving the Past

Please join us this afternoon, Sunday, Feb. 12, to view the “Electrifying Minnesota” traveling exhibit. This is the last day the exhibit will be at the Freeborn County Historical Museum. The museum will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. for your convenience. Admission for this special open house is any donation, which will be designated to the building expansion fund. This will also be the last day for the exhibit from Freeborn Mower Coop Service highlighting their 75th year in business. These two exhibits are a perfect match to share the story of electrification brought to rural areas of Minnesota.

During the last two weeks we have had more than 500 students view these two exhibits. Many interesting questions were asked, and it was hard for some of them to imagine what it would have been like to live without electricity and also how many conveniences we have today that we take for granted.

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We discussed the ice storm experienced here in Freeborn County in 1991. They realized that the lights were out when the power went out, but not all realized in some areas that meant there was no heat or water also. It was hard to imagine life without lights, heat, water, television and computers. We also discussed early life with no indoor plumbing, I shared that we didn’t have indoor plumbing until I was in second grade and the difference between well water and water from a cistern. I always knew when I washed my hair whether we were out of rainwater or not. If my hair was easy to comb I knew I had washed my hair with rain water from the cistern, if I couldn’t get my comb through my hair I knew that we had run out of rain water and Dad had switched us to well water.

I am hearing there seems to be a little misconception by individuals in our community that the museum is just a place for old people to visit, and I would like to clear up that wrong conception. Each year between 2,500 and 3,000 area students visit our museum for tours, programs, activities and special events. We have visitors from 36 to 40 states and 12 to 16 foreign countries per year. We have an excellent program called Discover History Day — this program involves 11th-graders teaching fifth-graders about history with hands-on activities during an all day event held at the museum with adults as mentors and a great experience for all involved. We continue to look for new ways to involve youth in programs at the museum and to peak their interest in the history of our county and its people.

You may have seen our ad in the Albert Lea Tribune asking for your donation to help make the museum building expansion project a reality. We have currently raised $888,500 for this project, but we need your help to reach our goal. Whether you donate $5, $500 or $5,000 or more, we need your help. Your donation is important and appreciated at any level. We plan to break ground on the new addition this spring or summer, but we need your help now to make it possible to complete the job in an effective manner. Please consider making a donation today to protect the history of our county for future generations. The coupon list the available options for donations, if you have questions please call the museum at 507-373-8003. Your donations are tax deductible.

The museum will be hosting a four-hour defensive driving refresher class on from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 3. The cost is $19 per person, and you must pre-register for the class. You will need your driver’s license when you register. The refresher class is required every three years after you have taken the initial eight-hour class, in order to continue receiving a 10 percent discount on your auto insurance.

The museum and the Albert Lea Public Library will be co-hosting an author visit at 2 p.m. March 11 at the museum. The topic will be school houses, and the author is Doug Ohman. Please plan on joining us for an entertaining afternoon.

Remember, what happens today is history tomorrow! Are you keeping a journal to record your personal history? If not, there is no better time to start than today! We held a library lock-in at the museum earlier this month and as the volunteer helpers and I were discussing the days adventures we also shared some of our own stories. I shared that one of my great-grandfathers faked his own death during the Civil War to survive and started his life over in a new state. Another person said there relative had deserted during the Civil War and then re-enlisted. What an interesting part of history to share with our future generations! What interesting facts would you like to share with future generations?


Pat Mulso is the executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum in Albert Lea.