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Lowell Anderson | Echo Press Volunteers Dianne Tomczik (left) and Mary New examined one of the old flags at the Douglas County Historical Society in Alexandria. The historical society recently received a grant that will help ensure that its clothing and textile collection is properly stored and preserved.

Keeping history alive

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Without a concerted effort, historic and cultural treasures are in danger of being lost to time.

That's why the Minnesota Historical Society recently awarded two grants of $6,800 and $5,600 to the Douglas County Historical Society.

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The larger grant will be used to help preserve historical clothing in the organization's exhibits while the other grant will go toward keeping an oral history of local World War II veterans alive and vibrant for generations to come.

"I was very excited to get the grants," said Rachel Barduson, director of the Douglas County Historical Society. "The one for oral history is very timely. Our World War II veterans are reaching an age where we're losing many of them. We need to get their stories recorded before it's too late."

Here are more details about both efforts:

HISTORIC CLOTHING AND UNIFORMS

The mission of the Douglas County Historical Society is to discover, preserve and disseminate the history of Douglas County and its people.

In fulfilling this mission, the historical society has accepted historic clothing/textile items. This includes military uniforms, family heirlooms and unique clothing pieces that reflect the historic eras of the people of Douglas County.

The clothing collection is used for displays and demonstrations, teaching visitors and classroom students lessons in history through interpretive programs in and out of the historical society's headquarters and as an important link to the people of the county, Barduson said.

She added that the historical society board has set a long-range plan to meet required museum standards of controlled environments for proper storage of textile collections.

"Our clothing collection definitely needs preservation," Barduson said.

The grant will allow the historical society to hire a professional consultant from the non-profit Midwest Art Conservation Center (MACC), who will provide an on-site visit to the society. The consultant will address current museum conditions and collection priorities.

The consultant will also develop a plan for the historical society, including how to pursue state and federal grants that would pay for a project to keep the clothing and uniforms in good condition.

MACC will also provide additional support in writing grants for no charge and other assistance needed for future projects.

WORLD WAR II HISTORY

The latest grant will support the Douglas County Greatest Generation Oral History Project - an effort to preserve the experiences of local World War II veterans.

"The cool thing about this project is that we'll be using the existing oral histories that we already have on audio tape," Barduson said.

The historical society plans to have a writing contest to turn those memories into a script that will be performed live. It's partnering with the Lakes Area Theatre in bringing these stories to life and will present the live performances at the Alexandria Area Arts Association theater and also on KXRA 1490-AM.

"It will be educational, informational and reach all ages, including younger people, through story telling," Barduson said.

Audiences will learn about the issues and struggles faced by the Greatest Generation during The Great Depression, World War II, and the post-war economic boom, Barduson said.

The project will also complement the Douglas County Historical Society's annual World War II/Big Band Era Hangar Dance to be held at the Alexandria Airport on June 11, 2011.

Minnesota historical leaders are pleased with the many different ways the grants, which total $6.75 million statewide, are being used.

"It is wonderful to see so many communities and local organizations benefiting from the Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants," said Britta Bloomberg, deputy state historic preservation officer. "Minnesotans should be proud of the unprecedented opportunities these grants provide for organizations to preserve and share our history and cultural heritage. The impact of projects supported by historical and cultural grants will be felt throughout the state for many years to come."

About the grants

The Minnesota Historical Society is awarding a total of $6.75 million in Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage grants to non-profit and educational organizations, government units and tribes in 2010-2011. Grants are awarded to support projects of enduring value for the cause of history and historic preservation across the state.

The grants are made possible by the Minnesota Legislature from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund created with passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution in November 2008.

Grants are available in three tiers: Small or "Fast Track" grants of $7,000 or less, mid-size grants between $7,000 and $50,000, and large grants of more than $50,000.

About the Minnesota Historical Society

The MHS is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. Its goal is to help illuminate the past as a way to shed light on the future. The society collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota's past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing.

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Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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