Cleaning and sorting the archives, artifacts

Kathleen J. McCully,
Executive Director
Isanti County Historical Society

Salvaged, very wet and burnt on the edges, these papers of past board meeting minutes and events were line-dried, and will be scanned and kept digitally as part of the history of the Isanti County Historical Society.

As of this issue, I am happy to report that our temporary office at the Oakview Office Complex is nearly set up and taking shape very nicely. The phone service should have been transferred on Monday, so when you call you may actually be speaking to a real person. Hours of operation are still being discussed, so until then we are taking meetings by appointment only.

The first day after the fire, ICHS staff and volunteers worked with Minnesota Historical Society staff to develop a tiered determination of priority for the retrieval of archives and artifacts. Tier One was for the most important to save, no matter how wet. This level would go to the freezer, and then to be freeze dried later. Tier Two was for items that would be nice to save if we could. We had to determine how wet or burned they were, then did we want to try to dry them ourselves, or send them to freeze drying. Tier Three was for all other items that we found that could be saved—to be dried and cleaned by ICHS.

This week our journey takes us to begin cleaning and sorting the archives and artifacts that were taken from the building that were in tiers two and three. None of this material will be freeze dried. Paper and textile items that were wet and burned were hung on lines or laid out to dry as soon as possible. Some were beginning to mold by the time they were found, so they went in the freezer truck. These items will be removed from the freezer now that mold growth was stopped, and it will be decided whether they will be saved or not. This will be a very meticulous and laborious job. Can you imagine having to look at every paper, object, or textile in your home, one at a time, to make this decision?

Of course, we are attempting to keep as much as possible given that we have lost so much more than we saved. I have also been checking eBay for items from our area and ran across two wooden nickels from Stratte Drug being sold by a person in Canada. For a small fee I purchased them, and sent him an email telling him about the fire. He decided to donate them to help us rebuild our collection of business premiums! What a nice gesture. Some will remember business premiums as calendars, rulers, plates, and other fun stuff that businesses would imprint with their names and give away. Our entire collection of business premiums was lost in the fire!

We are not accepting donations of archival 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.

Monetary donations can be made by mail, at our website, or directly at Cambridge State Bank. For all other inquiries, visit, follow us on Facebook, call us at 763-689-4229, email at or drop us a letter at 33525 Flanders St. NE, Cambridge, MN 55008.

Remember, our journey is not a sprint, but a marathon. So, this is Week Eight after the fire and we can look to a light at the end of the tunnel—even maybe just the size of a pin hole—but it’s there.