Appreciate the gift of history

Kathleen J. McCully, Executive Director
Isanti County Historical Society

As it happens, Week 24 after the fire falls just before Christmas. This is a time when everyone is looking forward to giving and receiving gifts from their friends and family. So while your gifts will be wrapped in festive paper and bows, ours are freeze-dried and packed in 61 boxes.

A plan has been formulated on how to inventory and process each box. ICHS has been very lucky in having Marilyn McGriff, the first executive director of the society working with us. Marilyn set up all of the filing systems during her tenure, and was familiar with many of the documents and items that were in our collection. Now, after having worked with technology and libraries, she is volunteering time to assist in the identification, prioritizing, processing and cataloging. Her time and talent is a gift that is truly beyond measure.

While we will not be processing and cataloging in full force until after the first of the year, Marilyn has been going through a few of the boxes to see if our process will work. After the fire, we had a crew of about 12-15 folks retrieving items, sorting, wrapping and freezing them. Opening each box now is like opening a Christmas present to ICHS. As Marilyn has been doing so, she has discovered a few things that are almost unscathed: Several scrapbooks of newspaper clippings from the local area; records of the Cambridge WCTU; Isanti County Arts Guild records with some photos of events; memorabilia from the Cambridge American Legion; Justice of the Peace dockets from Braham, 1950s; and file folders of information about several of the cross-roads communities in the county. We do celebrate these small gifts as we move forward.

However, there are many more items that were partially burnt in these boxes as well, and this is still a very dirty, sooty, smelly job. We can’t wear nice clothes, must wear masks and gloves, we have a hepa-filter air purifier running to pull stray particles from the air, and expect that we will be making a grand mess of things as we move forward. In spite of this, my staff and many volunteers continue to come back, day-after-day, week after week-to-work and clean up daily. They are all a gift to me and to the history of Isanti County, because this task could not be accomplished by one or two people alone.

As you celebrate this season with family and friends, Isanti County Historical Society thanks you for your gifts, whether they are photos, historical information, old business or civic organization records, oral histories, family histories, volunteer time and talent, monetary donations or moral support. Remember, this is a marathon for us all, not a sprint and we thank you for accompanying us on this journey.

Donations are greatly appreciated and can be made by mail, at our website, or directly at Cambridge State Bank. For all other inquiries, visit, call us at 763-689-4229, email at [email protected]net 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.