By Lois E Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Historical society roommates?


August 2, 2018

Representatives of the Moose Lake Area Historical Society and the Carlton County Historical Society, along with Carlton County representatives, met in Moose Lake on Tuesday, July 24, to discuss combining the Carlton County Historical Society in a building attached to Moose Lake’s museum.

Dennis Genereau, the Carlton County Coordinator, explained he has been working for two years on issues related to buildings.

One of the issues is the county-owned Shaw Memorial Library in Cloquet, where the Carlton County Historical Society has been located.

“The county purchased that building for $1 from the city for CCHS,” he explained. “However, the front steps, drainage system, electrical system and the roof need attention. That amounts to $987,000 worth of work needed.”

Genereau went on to explain that other buildings were considered for the historical society. Meanwhile the county sent out a request for proposals with the intent to sell the building where the historical society is now located.

“We received two proposals,” he said. “I went over and talked to Rachel (Martin, executive director of the historical society) and gave her a list of buildings where they could move. The list was provided by the City of Cloquet.”

Genereau added that someone suggested that CCHS be moved to Moose Lake.

“We knew that there was not enough space here, that space would have to be added,” he said. “The proposal is open for discussion. This is not a merger. We respect the work that each one does.”

“I think that we need to explore all options,” stated Carlton County Commissioner Gary Peterson. “I don’t think that we want to limit ourselves. Some people ask why we have two historical societies in the county. Attendance might be increased if both historical societies were in one location.”

Genereau explained that Commissioner Dick Brenner had looked at the former Cloquet City Hall as a temporary location for CCHS. Brenner was present at the meeting.

Martin stated she had compiled a list of pros and cons.

Cons were that there was not enough space for CCHS in the current museum building in Moose Lake; a space would have to be built. CCHS does not have the money to finance building another space.

The CCHS has been operating out of 4,700 square feet but it would need 6,000 square feet. CCHS would lose members from the northern part of the county because of the distance to Moose Lake, and the MLAHS is closed in the winter, where CCHS is open year around.

Pros included the sign on the freeway directing people to the Fires of 1918 Museum, which CCHS can’t get, the kitchen and event center, higher attendance at the Moose Lake depot and museum, the Soo Line Trail beside the depot and museum to bring in visitors.

The concept of adding space to the museum building in Moose Lake for CCHS was discussed.

“With this concept, we might be competing,” said Martin. “Visitors might go to one museum and not to the other. We need to make sure that we are not doubling up on our programs.”

There was a discussion about the two historical societies merging into one but that wasn’t favored.

“That’s not viable for us,” said Martin. “You are an area historical society. You don’t report to the state. CCHS is supposed to represent the whole county.”

Genereau explained he has visited a lot of museums all over the nation in his life, and there are often several museums - state, city and county - in one building.

“All share the same museum and all share the building,” he said.

Martin said that was not the time to start something new.

Dan Reed, a local historian and member of MLAHS, was present at the meeting and pointed out the advantages of the museums in one building.

“We actively support Cromwell (where there is a history club), we actively support the Automba reunion, and we actively support A Time to Remember program in Kettle River (to be held during Ma and Pa Kettle Days). We are not in competition with them. More and more, the process is to preserve the history of the area. All of this is local and supported by donations.”

There was discussion about adding to the museum building in Moose Lake.

Executive Director Steve Olson of MLAHS said that an addition could be added to form a T-shaped building. The heating/cooling system was overbuilt and could handle additional space.

He also said that it was possible to add a second story to the building but the second floor could not be public space without adding an elevator.

In further discussion, Genereau stated: “You will lose some people because CCHS won’t be in Cloquet but I think that people that value history will go wherever because they value it. Don’t sell people short. I think that it is at least worth a try.”

“We can raise revenue here,” said Commissioner Peterson.

“You could see how you could benefit together,” added Genereau. “You folks in Moose Lake seem to be open to the idea. I think that it is worth exploring. For visitors, if they can hit two in one visit, they will come here.”

Commissioner Peterson suggested that people brainstorm and throw out any ideas.

“We can put our energies together,” he said. “I think in time that our membership would grow. We don’t have all of the answers right now.”


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