DCHS gift puts history in its placeA recent donation beefed up archives at Fairlawn Mansion while giving Douglas County Historical Society a little breathing room. The gift highlights a growing connection between local museums that translates into better public service.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
A recent donation beefed up archives at Fairlawn Mansion while giving Douglas County Historical Society a little breathing room. The gift highlights a growing connection between local museums that translates into better public service.
The move began as volunteers Bob LaBounty and Valerie Burke were going through the archives at the historical society. They found a wealth of information on Fairlawn, including genealogy files, newspaper articles, organizational archives and original photos. They felt it belonged at Fairlawn, run by Superior Public Museums.
“It just makes sense,” LaBounty said. Instead of sending people shuttling back and forth between organizations, he said, information about the mansion belongs at Fairlawn.
The items were offered casually during the historical society’s annual meeting, said Sara Blanck, director of Superior Public Museums.
“It’s the spectrum of the life of the house,” Blanck said. “We have similar archives here, but have not had many of these pieces … it’s really nice to have them in the house.”
Having all the information in one spot “gives us the ability to definitively say we have the information or not,” Blanck said. “It enables us to give people answers.” And a number of items will be on display soon as part of the reworked children’s museum exhibit.
Clearing out the archives has given the DCHS volunteers a little more room to move around as well, LaBounty said.
“We’re all in the same game,” Blanck said. “We want both organizations to be successful.” She said the organizations have forged a positive working relationship and refer visitors to one another.
“We’re here to help each other and support each other and it just seems to make sense,” Burke said.
Sometimes DCHS volunteers find World War II items that they ship to the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, LaBounty said. Last year they sent an SS Meteor logbook to Superior Public Museums.
“It’s all for history,” LaBounty said. “It’s for the citizens of Douglas County that we all work together as a unit.”
That spirit of cooperation doesn’t end at the state line. A loosely organized coalition is connecting historical organizations from the Twin Ports, Iron Range and North Shore. The group began as the Twin Ports History Coalition three years ago with 16 members including Gleensheen in Duluth, and the historical society and A World of Accordions Museum in Superior.
Dan Hartman, interim director of Glensheen, spearheaded the effort. He said it was an easy group to form.
“We all wanted to help each other,” Hartman said. Members bring specific skills to the table. DCHS excels at history theatre, for example, while SPM has had success with ice cream socials and garden-themed offshoots. Some organizations have a collections focus, others have strength in archives or visual displays. And they share that information with each other so no one has to reinvent the wheel.
“Everything’s about relationships,” Hartman said. It leads to better service, he said, and better quality.
The group, now called the Northland History Coalition, has expanded to encompass more than 32 historical organizations from the Iron Range, North Shore and Twin Ports. The connection has had unexpected benefits, Hartman said. Standing together, they are a stronger advocacy group. They are better organized and able to access information on a broad range of topics. And they can cross-promote, giving history buffs a better idea of what is available in the area. That fits the mission of Glensheen, run by the University of Minnesota Duluth.
“We want to be an educational tool for the community, not just an attraction,” Hartman said.