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Grants help Bong Center fund improvements, program

The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center announced it has been awarded two grants totaling $30,000.

The first is a $20,000 grant to upgrade the audio-visual equipment at the center, built 15 years ago. At the time, state-of-the-art video kiosks and a movie theater were installed.

"With the changes in technology in the last 15 years, we need to make an upgrade." said Hayes Scriven, director of the center. "We are using the same equipment that we were using when we opened and a lot of it is past its useful life. It is costing us too much in maintenance to continue using them."

To complete the project, the center is going to use a cash match obtained at its annual fundraising auction in November. The money will be used to contract with local videographers to update current videos and create new ones. "The new videos will better tell veterans stories and give people a more immersive experience when they visit us," Scriven said.

The second grant, $10,000 awarded from multiple funds from the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, will expand the center's youth programs. This grant will create multiple new "traveling trunks" that can be used by area schools and create a "Junior Curator Program."

"The new trunks will be an extension of our field trip program here at the center, said John Gidley, education and outreach coordinator. "We will create new trunks on a wide variety of subjects that classes can utilize in their classroom to tell veterans stories."

With this grant, the center will also be creating a Junior Curator Program to engage 20 students entering eighth grade. The students will work in pairs at the center for a week at a time. During the week, students will learn how a museum operates by working with primary resources and researching in a library. The main project will be to conduct an oral history with a veteran and create a display that will be up for the summer in the museum gallery.

"This is a very similar program that I had at my previous job," Scriven said. "It really engaged the students and got them excited about history. I am excited about developing the program here and connecting students with area veterans in helping document our community history."

The center's goal is to partner with the Superior School District, but if all goes well, the program will expand into include the Duluth School District.