As we continue to celebrate our 70th anniversary at MCHS, we are grateful for our past supporters. MCHS has only existed for the past 70 years due to our advocates – those who fought for the organization at the grassroots level so that we can continue to share and preserve the history of Mower County. As we look to the future, we will continue to rely on them to help us make the case for preserving local history. Currently, there are growing questions at the state and national level about future funding for museums and cultural institutions.
Many of my Minnesota colleagues are closely following the path of the Omnibus Legacy Funding Bill (HF 707) as it makes its way through the Minnesota Legislature. Every two years, this bill determines the funding for the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment (passed by voters in 2008) and lays out the guidelines for how the money will be distributed. Minnesota museums and cultural institutions have greatly benefited from this amendment as it provided a competitive grant process through which we could
apply for funding for various projects and programs. Legacy funds cannot be used for operation costs, staff salaries, utilities, etc. so they truly do provide funds for special projects that we otherwise would not be able to accomplish. These are just some of the MCHS projects that have benefited from Legacy Funds over the past few years – purchased microfilmed newspapers, purchased a new microfilm machine, researched and created exhibits (Ghost Towns of Mower County, Mower County in World War II), completed half of a photograph inventory, inventoried the entire artifact collection (16,000+ objects!) and created an Interpretive Plan. As the Legacy Funding Bill is debated, it is quite possible that it will look drastically different than it has in the past and the grants program may receive much less than in previous years.
There are also questions swirling on the national level about the future of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities. Much like the
Legacy Amendment, these organizations provide grants and support for cultural organizations, schools, artists, researchers, and museums. They are also huge advocates for the museum field and losing them would be a set back. It may also set a very difficult precedent regarding funding for cultural organizations in the future.
So what exactly is my point? If museums and the preservation of history is something that is important to you – speak up, advocate, inform yourself, and support your local museums and cultural institutions!
You can contact your local and national representatives (this is a great tool for contacting your national representatives and this tool shows who represents you in Minnesota). Even better, call them! If that isn’t something you feel comfortable with (the thought of calling my representatives makes me nervous), there are so many other ways to show your support. Become a member of an organization that inspires you. Membership dues are one of the pillars of the Mower County Historical Society’s annual budget. We rely on those annual dues to help fund our day-to-day operations. It we know our daily expenses are covered, it frees us up to focus on fun projects like new exhibits, new programs, and new research. If you are
already a member of an organization, then consider making an extra donation! It may not seem like much, but donations of $20 or $30 can really add up over the course of a year. If a membership or donation does not fit in your budget right now, then visit. You can show your support by simply showing up. Tell the staff you think they are doing a great job and you support their work. Knowing our community supports us means more than you know. MCHS is offering several free weekend Open Houses this year in an effort to provide more opportunities for visitors to see what we have to offer.
If you are looking for some inspiration as to why local history is important, a group called the History Relevance Campaign recently released a statement called “The Value of History.” In it, they describe seven ways that history is essential within three
categories. History is essential to ourselves because it helps us create our own identity and developed critical thinking skills. It is important to our communities because the historical community provides vital places to learn and work and they create economic development. Finally, it is important to our future because history helps create engaged citizens, it inspires leaders, and it is our legacy.
Thankfully, the Mower County Historical Society has seen increased gifts from our members and our community in the past few years. The Mower County Commissioners have increased their support of MCHS in the past few years and we are extremely grateful. We also received donations from 15 of the 20 Mower County townships and have 364 members. We are excited about
our upcoming exhibits and projects and 2017 is shaping up to be a banner year as we celebrate our anniversary. Because we are thankful for our blessings and your past support, we are looking to do our part to fight to support funding for local history in our community, state, and country. The only reason we have the opportunity to celebrate 70 years of
preserving Mower County history is because of our community and their support. We thank you and hope that you will continue to join us.