The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 11, 2013

Grant helping to preserve Waseca County history

WASECA — For many years, Sheila Morris has come back to a hand-typed timeline of Waseca County’s history that has been floating around the Historical Society.

The timeline, written by former Waseca County Historical Society staff, wasn’t just a list of noteworthy dates; it also included the people and places of the county over the years, likely compiled with the help of James E. Child’s “History of Waseca County” from 1854 to 1904.

“I don’t know what my predecessors did about getting (the timeline) into the community, whether there were previous newspaper articles,” said Morris, co-executive director of the Historical Society. “But it’s a project that was here waiting when I arrived in the year 2000.”

When Morris and Joan Mooney took over as co-executive directors in 2007, Morris said she knew she wanted to do something with the timeline, whether it be creating an exhibit, a series of story panels or related programming. Almost all historical societies have some form of a timeline of their histories to help preserve the county’s past, Morris said.

A visit to the Winona Historical Society, in particular, was inspiring, she said. Located in the armory building, the society had added a new facility, and they had a timeline exhibit in the upper balcony that explored the people and landscape before settlers arrived all the way to mainstream development.

Beyond just the necessity of preserving history, Morris said it’s important for rural museums to stay competitive by offering those kinds of exhibits for tourists to show “the things that happened here, the people that lived here — that they did things here that were pretty unique to just Waseca County.”

However, before the timeline could move to the forefront, numerous challenges first took priority.

Just two months after Morris and Mooney took on their leadership positions, Waseca County was celebrating its sesquicentennial, having been established Feb. 27, 1857. And the timing was perfect to go for funding to tackle the numerous upgrades needed at the facility.

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