Would you consider becoming a member of the Itasca County Historical Society? The past two years have been a struggle for many of the area businesses including non-profit businesses such as ICHS. Several executive orders either closed the doors partially or entirely making fund raising impossible. In addition, the Blandin Foundation chose to no longer provide the annual sustaining (operating) grant that had been received for many years. So what happened next?

Following the old adage, “When life throws you lemons, make lemonade,” several changes occurred. The summer ghost tours were stopped due to limitations placed on large groups, but the escape rooms began as small groups could be accommodated. The fourth themed Escape Room, Rockin’ in the 50’s, is currently operating with the fifth one being planned for October.

While the museum, gift shop and the genealogy department were all shut down, volunteer workers quickly began work on the next big project, The River Room. ICHS is a recognized interpretive site for the Mississippi River and this room has been several years in the planning. It features a full wall rendition of the flowing river with wildlife by local artist Peggy Hagen, sculpture work by Native resident Dan Rabbit, the steamboats that were the early river transportation, the Showboat which served as river entertainment for over half a century, the Mississippi Chippewa story plus so much more. The grand opening for the River Room will be in October 2021.

Itasca County Schools will be featured in an exhibit that ICHS has scheduled to open in February 2022 and will cover many long-closed county schools. The data base for the Itasca County Veterans Project continues to expand. More than 2,500 veterans with a connection to Itasca County have been entered with about 2,000 edited and published as volunteers are still logging over 400 hours per quarter on this project which was opened in November 2019. If there is a veteran in your family, perhaps he or she would consent to an oral history. Maybe you have photos or stories to add to what has been published.

An annual giving letter was sent out in May. The goal for this year was to double the amount received last year. So far, donations have exceeded $16,000 and are still coming in. ICHS can’t stop here because the need is still present.

How can you help? Memberships to ICHS for individuals begin at $25 per year and for businesses begin at $100 although many ranges of amounts exist. If history is important to you, consider becoming a member or upping your membership contribution. Make a separate donation to the operating fund to help ICHS meet monthly expenses. Consider donating your required minimum distribution (RMD) from your retirement account to ICHS as they are organized as a 501(c)(3). Help ICHS connect the history of the county to the county residents. So please stop in, call, or go online to fill out a membership form and help ICHS make up the funding shortfall and continue fulfilling their mission statement.

Stop in to volunteer or just to visit. Challenge your detective skills to see if you can escape the Escape Room. See the trains, check out the pictures and stories, visit the Veterans room. The museum is open and there is no charge to enter.

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