What Happens To Your Donations

What Happens To Your Donations

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Ever wonder what happens after you donate an item or photo the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society? We recently had an inquiry about why photographs someone had donated some time ago have not made it to our online database. Unfortunately, that is something we have been trying to improve, but we currently have a collections backlog that includes several thousand individual items that we continue to work through and add to the database. Scanning and entering the items into our database is just one part of the process.
Over the past few years, we have been able to make improvements to our collections care including:
  • adding climate controls (air conditioning & humidity) to our space at the Armory,
  • physically expanding our offsite collections storage area by adding over 200 square feet and transferring the artifact boxes to rolling shelving units to make them more manageable,
  • transferring ten rolling units from our collections area at the armory to the new space to create a better work station for measuring, photographing and documenting artifacts as they are accessioned, and
  • transferring our collections database to a new, more user-friendly system that is being supported (the old system had become obsolete) which included file migration and data clean-up for the approximately 9,000 items currently in the system.
Throughout all of this we have received several large archival donations consisting of more than twenty boxes of files, photographs and other materials and eight large cabinets of artifacts along with the increased volume of donations that have come in throughout Covid as people have been sorting and downsizing. With only two full-time staff members to cover all of our programming and activities, and the limited opportunity for volunteers to do the data entry and scanning required, especially over the last couple of years, it is a slow process.
Collections care is a priority for the WBLAHS and we are currently working on several initiatives including:
  • a grant request that would enable us to hire two collections assistants in 2023. This would help with at least an inventory of the items that have not been fully catalogued to date. That would mean a title, object id number, photo/scan and donor information entered into the system, at a minimum, which would allow us to upload those items to the database for public access.
  • A long-term plan to add collections and program staff to focus on collections processing and ongoing care as well as utilizing those photos, artifacts and other materials to help tell the stories of our community.
One of our recent success stories is the addition of 26 oral histories to our website. Little by little it all will get there. But please be assured that even if it is not yet on our online database we can help you in-person with a research appointment at the Armory. We love being able to connect people to the history of our area and are happy to help!
History in the Spotlight

History in the Spotlight

Now, more than ever history is in the spotlight. People are questioning what they have been taught and seeking a better understanding of what they have experienced. Does that change our history? No, but it does push us to look at things from many different perspectives. Throughout 2021 we have worked to do just that. We have highlighted lesser told stories in a variety of ways including:
  • sharing stories of women in our community such as Dr. Mary Parker Hopkins who was the first female Health Officer for the Village of White Bear in 1910-11;
  • presenting the era of the suffrage amendment and its impact on our community;
  • exploring newly available resources on the Sophie Wirth Camp, the first Jewish Camp in Minnesota, which was located at White Bear Beach;
  • increasing our understanding of our local Native American history;
  • analyzing data from the Mapping Prejudice project and the role racial covenants played in shaping our area, and
  • celebrating the centennial of the incorporation of Birchwood Village.
White Bear Town Hall
Fillebrown House

We have said it many times throughout the past year or so – we are living through a very historic time – and we need to capture this moment! While this is certainly more apparent during recent times, it is something the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society has worked to accomplish on a regular basis over the past 51 years. What does this mean and how do we do that? Click here to see our many ongoing activities and initiatives.

Photo of Downtown White Bear Lake from mid 20th Century
Black and White Photo of White Bear Lake from mid-20th Century

Whether we are digitizing and transcribing an oral history from Dorothy Magnuson Haas sharing how she watched the Church of Christ, Scientist on Clark Avenue be remodeled in the 1940s, or compiling the origination of street and park names from resources such as blue prints from streetcar archives to share in our virtual programs, or investigating the lawsuit that caused the removal of the great burial mound along Lake Avenue in 1889, we are gathering, preserving and sharing our collective story in order to connect our community to its past.

Volunteers at Marketfest

All of this happens with a small team of dedicated staff and volunteers. At this time, I ask for your continued support of these efforts with a year-end contribution. The White Bear Lake Area Historical Society is a 501c3 non-profit. All donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Please consult your tax advisor for details.

In gratitude,

Sara Markoe Hanson
Executive Director

Village of Birchwood Celebrates 100 Years

Village of Birchwood Celebrates 100 Years

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the Village of Birchwood. In preparation for a centennial celebration in September, the WBLAHS has been gathering stories and images of Birchwood and its people. Several projects are in the works, including a series of interpretive signage for parks within the city that share the history of the property and the namesake for each.  

Currently underway is a study of the Birchwood Village Hall. The 1970s cedar siding was recently removed to reveal the original 1930s vertical pine siding that was designed in the Moderne style by architect Magnus Jemne. A task force appointed has been working to recommend next steps to the city council.

Jemne worked locally in the office of then Minnesota architect Cass Gilbert and eventually partnered with co-worker Thomas Holyoke for five years. He is best known for the design of the Women’s City Club completed in 1931 in St Paul, Minnesota. There are few other known examples of his work that remain. 

Watch for future updates on the future of the Birchwood Hall and upcoming programs and events to celebrate the centennial of Birchwood Village.