MARSHALL - It's been a historic year already for the Lyon County Historical Society, and it has nothing to do with a new exhibit.
In late April, the Marshall City Council decided the fate of the old library building by essentially selling the building to the county for $100,000 with the expectation that the county will make it the museum's permanent home.
It was a move not void of controversy, however, as the council had initially considered bid proposals from the historical society and the Marshall School District, which was looking to purchase the building so it could relocate Marshall East Campus Learning Alternatives, its alternative school. The historical society offered either $1 or $25,000 to buy the building and use it for the county museum. The school district offered $100,000 to convert it into space for the alternative school.
But county commissioners stepped in with a late $100,000 offer, and after a 5-2 council vote, the museum had its new home.
"As the historical board, we were ecstatic about that particular decision," said Lyon County Historical Society President Neal Ingebrigtson. "It really means continuing support from the county for us in the capital sense. They will be leasing the building to us, but at the same time will be maintaining the building for us. When they decided to go this route, we were really glad about it."
The society also has hired a new director whose technical experience will allow the museum to go high-tech. It has plans to implement PastPerfect software, which will allow it to electronically catalog every item and even go online with them.
It's a concept not new to the historical society museum's new director, Jennifer Andries, a Kimball native and Southwest Minnesota State graduate who worked at the Renville County Museum in 2007.
With PastPerfect, each object is photographed, numbered and cataloged with a description.
"Let's say somebody comes in and their grandpa donated something and they want to see it - if we don't have it on display we can go to the software, see where it's located and find it," Andries said. "With the software we will know if it's located in storage or if it's on the second floor. We can bring it up for people to see."
Ingebrigtson said since the society hasn't taken possession of the building yet, it can't begin the relocation process, at least not physically. Society members do have a "picture" timeline of what they want to get accomplished and when they want to have each phase completed. Ingebrigtson said they want to open the museum to the public by the fall, either in October or November.
"We want the public to notice that we have been working hard, and we want to get that main floor situated so it can be open," he said. "We know the upper floor and the lower floor will not be open; that could take months. A number of people have said to us, 'well, all you have to do is move your collection,' but it's much more than that."
The biggest change the new museum will provide is a conversion from a collection museum to an exhibit museum, the difference being that not all the items and artifacts will be on display at the same time. It's a way of displaying items that is not possible in the current location because there's no room for proper storage. Today, artifacts are stored, not only in the museum, but at various locations around Marshall.
"You do purposeful exhibits, which change, and then you have other things in storage," Ingebrigtson said.
"A lot of museums now are moving toward exhibit displays instead of just showing all of the collections," said Andries. "When we visited the museum in Morris, we got really great ideas from them and how they have an exhibit they change out every three years. Most of their collection is actually in storage. The storage is good because you can preserve artifacts with the proper ventilation, having the acid-free (storage), which is what we don't have right now; we have cardboard boxes."
The museum, which actually started in the basement of the library building in the late 1960s, has to be out of its current location on Main Street by the end of August. It's been there since 2009 when it moved from the Knights of Columbus building.
While the new building will open up many opportunities for exhibits in the future, visitors used to the current location will notice a sense of familiarity, as the museum plans to continue with and expand the ice cream parlor theme with the Schwan's ice cream counter - complete with an active fountain - that will potentially double as a gift shop and book store, "because Schwan's is so important, not only to Marshall, but to Lyon County," Ingebrigtson said. "We want it to be our signature piece."
Ingebrigtson said one of the museum's major focuses in the next month is to get that parlor and shop built. How it will end up being designed is still a question, however. Jim Dahl's expansive diorama that takes up half of a long wall of the current museum, will also be displayed, but Ingebrigtson said the mural might have to be modified a bit as it's put into a new space. Dahl had to take apart, reassemble and repaint the mural when the museum moved to its current location in 2009.
The library building might not be ideal for a budding museum because of its low ceiling, but the space it offers more than makes up for it, Ingebrigtson said. There will have to be some modifications done in order for the museum to show off some of its more popular exhibits, such as the log cabin.
"That will be a signature piece, but it might take awhile," Ingebrigtson said.
Ingebrigtson said one idea with the cabin would be to give it a permanent place in the museum and work around it, perhaps in a seasonal way. The cabin would be part of an early history of Lyon County display in the basement and could include the Prairie Schooner. The added space will also allow the museum to have a resource center for people who stop in looking for specific historical information, Andries said.
"One of the things we want to do goes back to not just showing but telling," Andries said. "Make sure we're not just putting something out there, but that we have a story with it. We want to get the community involved, get the kids involved with hands-on activities for them."
Another issue is the lighting. Andries said fluorescent lighting isn't good for artifacts, especially the textiles and papers, so that would have to be replaced.
Ingebrigtson also said the Minnesota Historical Society is urging the museum board to begin the process of getting the building on the National Register of Historical Buildings because the state calls it a strong example of 1960s architecture.
As far as moving, Ingebrigtson said any help would be appreciated. When the museum moved to West Main Street, everyone from firemen to Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts pitched in, and some Marshall businesses loaned out moving carts.
Anyone wishing to volunteer with the move can call 537-6580.