We all need to give thanks for history

Kathleen J. McCully,
Executive Director
Isanti County Historical Society

Since last week was Thanksgiving, article deadlines were on Friday and not Monday. Therefore, I missed my deadline and you did not hear from ICHS in what was Week 20 after the fire. That is only five months. A lot has happened in this short time, and believe it or not, there is much for which Isanti County Historical Society can be thankful.

To refresh everyone’s memory about Friday, July 8, the Isanti County Historical Society Heritage Center was totally destroyed by an arson fire early that morning. Isanti County history literally went up in flames, as well as the hard work, hopes and dreams that took 46 years to amass. By the end of August the building was demolished, and all recovered archives and artifacts were either hand-dried, laundered, or off to be freeze dried. When all was said and done, we estimate a loss of 80 percent of all artifacts and archives, and 100 percent of everything else.

We are first and foremost thankful that no lives were lost during the fire. No one was in the building, and no firefighters were hurt. Our antique mannequin, Inga, however, was nowhere to be found. Next, while we were all pretty much in shock, help came from all directions to be sure that we did what was needed to appropriately save the most important items. Multiple historical societies from various parts of the state offered assistance, local businesses gave us whatever we needed to set up a temporary recovery area, fed volunteers, donated vests, gloves, hardhats, crates for the wet and fire-damaged documents and freezer paper to wrap same. Bob Herskovitz and Dave Grabitski from the Minnesota Historical Society worked by our side for 12 hours on Saturday to assist recovery in what I call “conditions from hell.” We are very thankful for all of these people and actions.

So these are the tangible losses, but there are intangible ones as well. With the loss of our Heritage Center, we lost our ability to generate income for the historical society’s operating expenses from the rental of our large meeting room. Membership renewals have not been sent during this recovery time and regular events have had to be cancelled. However, ICHS is very thankful for the donations we have received to offset this loss of income. Even small donations have enabled us to keep operating during this transitive time.

Over the past five months we have received temporary space to relocate and process our documents, donated office furniture, supplies and still more offers of volunteers. Thank you, thank you, thank you cannot be said too many times.

As we move through December, the sixth month after “The Great Arson Fire of 2011,” please consider making a year-end donation to be used for operating funds as we continue “The Great Journey of 2012.” Donations are fully tax-deductible as we are a 501c(3) non-profit and I know that ICHS would be very thankful for this monetary support as expenses still need to be covered.

To support ICHS during our marathon journey in recovery and rebuilding, donations are greatly appreciated and can be made by mail, at our website, or directly at Cambridge State Bank. For all other inquiries, visit www.ichs.ws, call us at 763-689-4229, email at [email protected] or drop us a letter at 1700 E. Rum River Drive S., Suite K, Cambridge, MN 55008. We are open by appointment only at this time.