Not everything is always as black and white

Kathleen J. McCully, Executive Director
Isanti County Historical Society

It has been two weeks since my last update, ushering in Week 28 since the fire. The work on all recovered archives and photo negatives continues and one negative in particular caught our attention. With the Martin Luther King holiday upon us, it seemed fitting to bring it forth.

Anyone have information on this family or photo? Time unknown, occasion unknown, maybe 1930s or 40s, but a part of the Carlson negative collection, but this family would have been unique enough to Isanti County that perhaps someone can help us identify the picture.

Isanti County was first settled by the New Englanders, followed by the Swedes, Germans and a smattering of other Scandinavians/Europeans. Taking all of these nationalities into account, we have not been surprised that all Carlson negatives have been of white residents thus far. That is, until this wonderful photo of a family of color surfaced. Because we do not have access to this negative’s original number, there is no way for us to check the logs to see when it was taken. Perhaps the 1930s or 40s, and we can only make a guess by the clothing and hairstyles. We probably will never know their names, where they lived, if it was in our county, or if they just visited the photo studio for this sitting. However, this is the case with all the negatives and photos in our collections that are not properly identified. Photo identification and stories are so important to history, and this fire is making us very aware of this fact as we handle the archival remains.

We continue to process the salvaged negatives, and I am sure there will be many more surprises to come. Also, our goal is to have inventoried all 61 boxes of freeze-dried material by the end of January. We are half-way there. There are surprises here too. Many photos have been saved—however, not all in good condition. We are very thankful for digital photo restoration and the fact that water stains, creases, burns, and other imperfections can be repaired. This is due to the magic of technology, and the talent and skills of photo restoration professionals.

Our marathon journey in recovery and rebuilding continues. If you want to support ICHS, donations are greatly appreciated and 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 [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.