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Local history is the focus of listening session

December 5, 2012
By Deb Gau , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Preserving Minnesota history is a passion for many people statewide, but local histories and interests vary as much as the communities they came from. That was part of the reason a group of area residents met for a listening session at the site of the new Lyon County Historical Museum on Tuesday.

Residents including members of historical societies in Lyon, Lincoln, Yellow Medicine and Rock counties met to talk about preserving local history with consultants working with the Minnesota Historical Society. Marshall was one of several locations around the state chosen to have listening sessions, the consultants said.

Consultant Nancy Franke Wilson said one of the goals of Tuesday's discussion was to hear how Legacy funds have helped or affected historical preservation projects throughout Minnesota. Another big part of the discussion, Franke Wilson said, was to learn about local historical societies' goals and priorities.

"What are you interested in?" she said.

That question drew a lot of the feedback at the listening session. Members of the Lyon County Historical Society said they were interested in preserving local history, while still drawing in future generations.

Society member Kathy Lozinski said the big question for volunteers is, "Who's going to take over when we're gone?" Expanding the museum's offerings to include more recent history might help generate interest in younger people.

However, Wayne Hexem of Hendricks said available space, as well as a particular museum's focus, can also put limits on what gets displayed. Steve Ascher of the Yellow Medicine County Historical Society and other session participants said it's still possible to interest children in their local museum, even without exhibits on very recent history.

The Yellow Medicine County Museum in Granite Falls has gotten good responses from visiting children, Ascher said.

Participants at the listening session had a variety of other areas of local history they said they would like to support. Lyon County Historical Society member C. Paul Martin said it would be good to be able to host educational programming, as well as exhibits on prominent parts of local history, like major businesses.

Ascher said Minnesota military history, including the Dakota Conflict, was another area of interest, as was genealogy and preserving local records.

"I think there's a lot of family history," that area residents might be interested in, said Lozinski.

Benjamin Vander Kooi, a member of the Rock County Historical Society, said historic building preservation was another possible concern for area groups.

"I frankly am worried about the buildings that are just fading into history," Vander Kooi said. The city of Luverne has taken steps to preserve some of its historic buildings and is setting up a historic downtown district, he said. There are a variety of resources local groups can use to help preserve buildings and other aspects of their history, he said.

Franke Wilson and Steve Paprocki said they will compile and analyze feedback collected from around the state before reporting back to the Minnesota Historical Society.



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