Other projects still underway this year
After closing intermittently three times in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Freeborn County Historical Museum reopened two weeks ago with several updates for guests.
Museum Executive Director Stephanie Kibler said that while the pandemic has been difficult for all museums, including Albert Lea’s, it has also been a period in which local museum staff have been able to put update several exhibitions and create new ones as well. .
Staff have reinterpreted many exhibits and these now include more interactive elements for children and adults.
“As difficult as it is – and we lost a significant amount of money with the closures, we weren’t able to show the work we did or get the kids’ feedback,” Kibler said. . “Having said that, it’s been a great time for the museum because we’ve done so much.”
One of the museum’s updated exhibits is for musician Eddie Cochran, which features many of the same artifacts as before that are presented in a new way. The exhibit will include a Cochran video of Cochran’s sister, and the exhibit also includes footprints on the floor that people can dance to The Stroll on, which she says has already been a hit with children and adults.
Behind the Cochran exhibit is a separate musical exhibit featuring instruments from the past, which will also feature an interactive component in which children can try their hand at playing some portable instruments.
On the opposite wall will be a 26-foot-long three-dimensional timeline of Freeborn County, which they hope to have completed by March 1.
Nearby is a space dedicated to the collection of local historian Kevin Savick, who donated several thousand commemorative items related to the story of Albert Lea before his death.
“It was another fun experience to have,” Kibler said. Articles will be regularly updated to showcase the collection.
The museum’s immigration exhibit was reinterpreted and she said they were also looking for stories of new immigrants who came to the community.
Other highlights include a new clock shop with various clocks and a hat shop with hats. The military exhibition has been reinterpreted and enlarged.
Staff are working on a new Freeborn County hotel exhibit slated to open in March, and are turning an old kitchen exhibit into a law firm slated to open in June.
Outside the village, volunteers repainted three of the shops outside and one inside, and four other exhibits were completely redone. They also carried out roofing and landscaping projects.
Kibler said that although the Discover History Days have already been canceled for 2021, she hopes some of the private schools will still come for tours in the spring. They have the ability to do small group tours while following social distancing guidelines.
Outside of the museum, staff are also excited about the restoration of the Itasca rock garden, which is slated to begin in July. The renovations to the home on the property will be complete soon, and once the whole project is complete, they look forward to visits there as well.
The museum is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and in two to three weeks it will likely be open until 4 p.m. on those days.
Kibler said they hope they can add more programs, although that depends largely on how comfortable people are. Programming could include talks, Tuesdays for toddlers, educational programs to increase interest in local history, fundraisers and potentially a Music in the Village event or other interactive events during the fair. of Freeborn County.
“We are a community organization,” she says. “We want the community to use us as they can. “
The museum has many safety precautions in place due to COVID-19, including offering hand sanitizer, taking guests’ temperatures, checking in visitors and pulling brochures behind the conger eel before. He has limited the number of volunteers and the number of people who can use the library at any one time. Masks are also mandatory.
She said that while some members have been generous with time and money during the pandemic, the museum has suffered a loss of nearly $ 70,000 for 2020. She said families can purchase annual subscriptions for $ 35, which she said. which allows people to access the museum and its activities. People can call, mail, or come to the museum in person to get memberships at 1031 Bridge Ave.