Update on the progress at Isanti County Historical Society

Kathleen J. McCully,
Executive Director
Isanti County Historical Society

It has been over five full weeks since the Isanti County Historical Society was destroyed by an arsonist. What took 46 years of solid, steady work and collection of Isanti County history was wiped out in less than 46 minutes.

As you can imagine, there is so much to be done that I have found it overwhelming at times. In taking the time to reflect about our losses, it came to me that no one ever said that life was going to be easy. I remember reading from our archives the stories of the early Swedish and German immigrants who left their homes, knowing they would probably never see their parents and siblings again, to come to Amerika—the land of a better life. These folks, after months on the ocean, then after weeks on a train, arrived in the state. One story told of how they walked to Anoka, toting all of their worldly possessions. The men left their wives and children and walked to Little Falls, where they were told they would get a parcel of land to homestead—only to find that there was no land left to be had. From there they walked to Taylors Falls to get land, then had to walk to another location to register that land, and then walked back to the family. No one ever said life was going to be easy.

As we begin week six, the Heritage Center building is being taken down and we look forward to the next part of our journey. We estimate that we lost about 70 percent of our archives and artifacts, however, until we have a chance to inventory everything we won’t know for sure.

We lost everything else in the building, but those things can be replaced. What cannot ever again be obtained are the one-of-a-kind records, oral histories, diaries, scrapbooks and historical minutia, business records, textiles and quilts—well, I could go on and on. No one ever said life was going to be easy.

Isanti County has graciously offered us space in the Oakview Office Complex where we will begin to rebuild our collection. We will be in Suite K, however, we are not formally there yet. When we are there, we will be accepting visitors by appointment only. Some documents were dry, others we dried, and others still will be professionally freeze-dried.

Everything will need to be inventoried, catalogued, scanned and filed. Everyone’s job descriptions changed over night, that’s for sure.

We are not accepting donations of materials or artifacts at this time. However, if you let us know what you have and where we can contact you, we will let you know as soon as we are ready to accept them. This can be done by mail, phone, or on our website.

The cost of freeze drying our documents is over $200 per cubic foot. We will also need archival materials, storage boxes, shelving—well, I could go on and on. Monetary donations can be made by mail, at our website, or directly at Cambridge State Bank.

This journey we have been forced to take is not a sprint, but a marathon. Next week there will be a bit more progress and more stories to tell. In the meantime, visit www.ichs.ws, follow us on Facebook, call us at 763-689-4229, email at [email protected] or drop us a letter at 33525 Flanders St. NE, Cambridge, MN 55008.

We thank everyone for their support and kindness.