Volunteers: The Unsung heroes at the Northfield Historical Society

Unsung heroes is a term that comes to mind during tours of the Northfield Historical Society (NHS). Visitors seeking to learn more about the James-Younger Gang’s attempted robbery of the First National Bank in 1876 leave the museum with information about the true heroes, the citizens who defended the town against the gang.

But long-dead citizens are not the only unsung heroes at the museum. Three Northfield residents who contributed their time and talents to the historical society last year recently received recognition for their efforts. Lisa Peterson, Randy Knox and Jackson Hillmann were honored as the 2015 volunteers of the year at the NHS annual meeting on March 19 at the Grand Event Center.

LisaLisa Peterson
When longtime museum store manager and volunteer coordinator Gloria Powell retired, NHS Executive Director Hayes Scriven asked Lisa Peterson if she would be willing to help manage the store.

Peterson was working as a freelance graphic designer at the time, and she had served on the NHS board of directors from 2011-2014. She agreed to work 20 hours a week in the store, and she discovered that she greatly enjoyed it.

“Volunteers sometimes overlook the store — they want to be on the posse — but working in the store is fun. You get to talk to people from all over the country and all over the world,” she said. “Also, there’s a lot more to the museum than the James-Younger story. Once you get involved, you get a glimpse of Northfield you haven’t known about before.”

In August, Peterson was hired as the director of tourism at the Northfield Conventions and Visitors Bureau. She said her knowledge of the historical society comes in handy in her new job because the museum is Northfield’s biggest visitor attraction. She has continued to volunteer on the museum store committee, and in March she rejoined the NHS board of directors.

“I just can’t leave it alone,” she joked.

Randy KnoxRandy
When it appeared that the museum and store hours would have to be reduced last year due to a lack of volunteers, Randy Knox answered the call for help.

Knox is a retired information technology project manager; he had no previous retail experience and had no idea he would enjoy working in the store as much as he does.

He typically works every Friday morning and every other Wednesday morning. He has also put in extra hours helping with the store’s conversion to a new point of sale system.

“What I enjoy most is meeting our visitors, conversing with them and sharing the story of Northfield,” he said. “Before I started working in the store, I had only a passing understanding of the James-Younger gang, the raid and the citizens’ response to it. The more I’ve learned, the more respect I have for the people who looked danger in the eye, took initiative and personal responsibility, and changed the course of history.”

Knox continues to volunteer in the store and plans to take docent training this spring.

Jackson HillmannJackson A junior at Northfield High School, Hillmann started his NHS volunteer experience as a seventh grader in the Junior Curator program. He continued in eighth grade as a member of the SCOPE program, and last summer, he mentored Junior Curators as one of the Summer Assistant Program supervisors.

He said one highlight of his volunteer experience occurred in August while researching information about Henry Wheeler, one of the townspeople who fought back against the James-Younger gang. He and another student found cryptic letters and numbers on the back of an article about Wheeler’s marriage, and the discovery led them to additional articles about Wheeler’s two later marriages.

“We felt like real historians — we inferred and found something out about the other marriages we hadn’t known about,” he said.

Computer science and math are Hillman’s favorite subjects, but he also enjoys history and highly recommends the museum’s youth programs to other students.

“It’s just a fun time — you feel like you’re doing something for your town, and contributing to a cool cause,” he said.

Volunteers Needed
The Northfield Historical Society welcomes volunteers interested in working in the store or serving in other positions. For more information, contact Hayes Scriven at 507-645-9268

Historical Society receives history awards

MOM beforeNorthfield Historical Society (NHS) is receiving two statewide history awards this spring in recognition of its work preserving and interpreting local history.

Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums is honoring NHS for its “behind-the-scenes” efforts to preserve the legacy of Malt-O-Meal and for its “40 for 40” exhibit in 2015 celebrating NHS’s 40th anniversary. The awards will be presented Friday, April 27, at the Alliance’s annual meeting in Willmar. Waseca County Historical Society is also being honored for its exhibit titled: “Where the Big Woods Meets the Prairie.”

Dustin Heckman, the Alliance’s History Awards coordinator, said each project symbolizes great work being done by local history organizations across the state.

“The communities that are served by these organizations should be proud of the work being accomplished at a local level to preserve history,” Heckman said.

Hayes Scriven, executive director for NHS, said these awards are especially meaningful because they come from people who understand the mission

NHS Staff

NHS Staff, Stephanie Hess, Hayes Scriven and Cathy Osterman in the new collection storage space.

of museums and the work that goes into acquiring and maintaining collections.

“These awards are voted on by our peers,” Scriven said. “It’s nice to be recognized for exceptional work.”

The award for acquiring the Malt-O-Meal collection recognized six-months of planning and negotiation for the transfer of the material and for arranging for an endowment to support it in the years to come. It required many conversations with the family of founder John Campbell, which involved both education and consensus-building. In the end, artifacts and memorabilia from an important chapter of Northfield history will reside just 300 steps from where the company first produced cereal in Northfield.

Cathy Osterman, NHS curator, said the collection definitely belongs in the community.

“If it were to go anywhere else, you would lose that sense of place,” she said. “Malt-O-Meal has had such a huge influence on Northfield. Here it will command center stage and enjoy the prominence it deserves.”

Plans call for three different Malt-O-Meal exhibits over the next three years in the newly-renovated exhibit space off the Ted Scott Room. In 2019 — Malt-O-Meal’s 100th anniversary — most of the museum’s exhibit space will be devoted to a year-long centennial exhibit.

A key component to NHS’s 40th anniversary celebration was the “40 for 40” exhibit. It was designed to showcase the range of artifacts currently in the003 local collection. There were three different exhibits during the year. The last was planned with the help of community input.

The artifacts were selected to represent various aspects of Northfield’s story. They included things such as a leather football helmet, a pre-historic mastodon tooth and a wood water pipe that tied in with the story of the development of city services back in 1895.

Osterman said the feedback on the exhibit was very positive. It underscored the need to do more object-based exhibits.

The “40 for 40” exhibit also reminded people that they play a role in building the NHS collection.

“It helps people realize that they are our agents in the field,” Scriven said. “Our collection is built by people remembering to share their artifacts with us.”

The Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums, organized in 1991, is a statewide organization that seeks to nurture and encourage an appreciation of Minnesota’s local history by providing a structure to foster professionalism and excellent work among local and specialized historical organizations in Minnesota.

Get a little ‘Hops, Grapes and History’ April 15

Hops PosterThe Northfield Historical Society will host its fourth annual Hops, Grapes and History fundraising event April 15. This year’s entertainment will be Mark Allen and the Keywest Rejects. All funds raised for the event benefit general NHS operations.

The evening will start at 7 p.m. (doors will open a few minutes before) with a tasting of locally produced wine, beer, cider, and spirits from Keepsake Cidery, Sweetland Orchard and Cider, Loon Liquors, Next Chapter Winery, and local “Imminent” home brews. All of the vendors produce their product in or near Northfield.

The event also will include a raffle for a variety of items from local businesses.

After the tasting, Mark Allen and the Keywest Rejects will take the stage at 8:15. With his acoustic guitar and hard-hitting harmonica, Allen prides himself on performing his own music “created to express emotions and experiences that come from everyday living.” The singer-songwriter is a little acoustic, a little Americana, some alt country, country, acoustic rock, “and whatever else seems to fit.”

Register for this event by April 12 and be automatically entered to win a $200 gift card from Firehouse Liquor. Prices are $20 per ticket in advance ($35 for two), and $25 at the door ($45 for two).

The event is sponsored by these amazing businesses!Mark Allen

Service Master
Landmark Homes
KYMN Radio
Hvistendahl, Moersch, Dorsey & Hahn, P.A.
Edward Jones by Jon Snodgrass
Northfield Olive Oil and Vinegar
Northfield News
Rare Pair

Through the Camera Lens Exhibit Opening

Last night we opened our newest exhibit, “Through the Camera Lens: Early Northfield Photography.” The new exhibit looks at photography in Northfield during the late 1800s. The exhibit looks at the works of Ira E. Sumner and Edward N. James.

Ten photos from the Sumner and James collections have been reproduced in large format for this exhibit, and a number of historic photographs, negatives, and equipment also will be on view. In addition, for a limited time visitors will be able to take their own photographs in front of a period backdrop replica in our recreated photographer’s studio.
The exhibit is sponsored by the Northfield News, KYMN Radio, and Bridgette Hallcock Photography. It will run through September.

Closed on March 28

Happy-Easter-2016-2017-2018-2019-20202The Northfield Historical Society will be closed on March 28.  We will reopen our normal business hours on March 29th at 10:00 a.m.

Also, starting April 4th we are moving to our summer hours in which we will be open on Mondays again from 10- 5.

‘Through the Camera Lens: Early Northfield Photography’ exhibit to open March 24

PostcardA new exhibit highlighting late 19th and some early 20th century photography in Northfield will open at the Northfield Historical Society on Thursday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m.

Photography in Northfield during the late 1800s was a booming business. In addition to numerous traveling photographers passing through, by 1890 the town was home to at least three studios. Ira E. Sumner and Edward N. James were among the most talented of this group of artists, and many photographs in the NHS collection bear the names of these two prolific men.

Because of the nature of photographic materials and technology, the majority of early photographs are group and individual portraits. Later photographers took advantage of more portable equipment and faster techniques to capture urban scenes, landscapes, events, and more casual snapshots of daily life. These trends in early photography are reflected in the images by Sumner and James that have been selected from the society’s vast collection.

Ten photos from the Sumner and James collections have been reproduced in large format for this exhibit, and a number of historic photographs, negatives, and equipment also will be on view. In addition, for a limited time visitors will be able to take their own photographs in front of a period backdrop replica in our recreated photographer’s studio.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Northfield News, KYMN Radio, and Bridgette Hallcock Photography. It will run through September.


41st Annual Meeting set for March 19th

posterThe Northfield Historical Society will host its 41st Annual Meeting March 19 at the Grand Event Center. Doors will open at 6:30 with the meeting starting at 7 p.m. The event is sponsored by the First National Bank of Northfield, KYMN Radio, Northfield News and The Entertainment Guide.

The keynote speaker will be attorney Todd Aldrich, an in-law in the multigenerational Northfield-based family business Malt-O-Meal (MOM). Todd is married to Allyson Smith Aldrich, a third-generation shareholder of MOM and granddaughter of company founder John S. Campbell. Todd has been active in service on the MOM Board of Directors and in the formation and management of its Family Council. He also finds time to be actively involved in community nonprofit service in the Twin Cities.

Todd will talk about why the family decided to donate its company’s history collection to NHS and also will discuss how they are ensuring that the collection will be protected and shared with the rest of the NHS community.

Honoring volunteers

The meeting also will include recognition of the 2015 volunteers of the year: Jackson Hillmann, Randy Knox and Lisa Peterson.

Jackson, a junior at Northfield High School, has participated in the Junior Curator, SCOPE, and Summer Assistant programs.

Lisa, Northfield tourism coordinator  with the Northfield Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, served on the NHS board from 2011–14. Last year volunteered in the NHS store for 20 hours a week after the retirement of long-time store manager and volunteer coordinator Gloria Powell.

Randy Knox is a retired Information technology project manager who last year answered the call for volunteers in the NHS store. He has volunteered in the store at least once a week ever since.

Without the support of Randy and Lisa the NHS store would not have been able to function at the level it did.

Finally, the society will recap 2015 activities and elect new board members.

The Northfield Historical Society is the primary steward of the unique history of the Northfield area, fostering an awareness of its meaning and relevance through the discovery, documentation, preservation and interpretation of our collective stories.

You can register for the Annual Meeting online or by calling NHS at 507-645-9268.