Northfield Historical Society (NHS) is receiving two statewide history awards this spring in recognition of its work preserving and interpreting local history.
Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums is honoring NHS for its “behind-the-scenes” efforts to preserve the legacy of Malt-O-Meal and for its “40 for 40” exhibit in 2015 celebrating NHS’s 40th anniversary. The awards will be presented Friday, April 27, at the Alliance’s annual meeting in Willmar. Waseca County Historical Society is also being honored for its exhibit titled: “Where the Big Woods Meets the Prairie.”
Dustin Heckman, the Alliance’s History Awards coordinator, said each project symbolizes great work being done by local history organizations across the state.
“The communities that are served by these organizations should be proud of the work being accomplished at a local level to preserve history,” Heckman said.
Hayes Scriven, executive director for NHS, said these awards are especially meaningful because they come from people who understand the mission
of museums and the work that goes into acquiring and maintaining collections.
“These awards are voted on by our peers,” Scriven said. “It’s nice to be recognized for exceptional work.”
The award for acquiring the Malt-O-Meal collection recognized six-months of planning and negotiation for the transfer of the material and for arranging for an endowment to support it in the years to come. It required many conversations with the family of founder John Campbell, which involved both education and consensus-building. In the end, artifacts and memorabilia from an important chapter of Northfield history will reside just 300 steps from where the company first produced cereal in Northfield.
Cathy Osterman, NHS curator, said the collection definitely belongs in the community.
“If it were to go anywhere else, you would lose that sense of place,” she said. “Malt-O-Meal has had such a huge influence on Northfield. Here it will command center stage and enjoy the prominence it deserves.”
Plans call for three different Malt-O-Meal exhibits over the next three years in the newly-renovated exhibit space off the Ted Scott Room. In 2019 — Malt-O-Meal’s 100th anniversary — most of the museum’s exhibit space will be devoted to a year-long centennial exhibit.
A key component to NHS’s 40th anniversary celebration was the “40 for 40” exhibit. It was designed to showcase the range of artifacts currently in the local collection. There were three different exhibits during the year. The last was planned with the help of community input.
The artifacts were selected to represent various aspects of Northfield’s story. They included things such as a leather football helmet, a pre-historic mastodon tooth and a wood water pipe that tied in with the story of the development of city services back in 1895.
Osterman said the feedback on the exhibit was very positive. It underscored the need to do more object-based exhibits.
The “40 for 40” exhibit also reminded people that they play a role in building the NHS collection.
“It helps people realize that they are our agents in the field,” Scriven said. “Our collection is built by people remembering to share their artifacts with us.”
The Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums, organized in 1991, is a statewide organization that seeks to nurture and encourage an appreciation of Minnesota’s local history by providing a structure to foster professionalism and excellent work among local and specialized historical organizations in Minnesota.