BEMIDJI — Exciting changes are coming to the Beltrami County Historical Society, starting with two new exhibits focused not just on connecting people to the area’s history, but their own.
Both exhibits open this weekend just in time for Memorial Day weekend and the start of summer.
The first, “High School Reminiscing”, is linked to the next meeting of Bemidji All School to be held in July. The exhibit will highlight different aspects of local high school life and history, which those who attended Bemidji High School will find familiar.
“We hope people will feel connected,” said Emily Thabes, the historical society‘s executive director. “We are going to present all aspects of high school for several decades.”
The second exhibit, “Century of Play,” is in partnership with Minnesota’s Historic Northwest, an organization that includes area museums.
The collaborative exhibit will examine childhood and play, and showcase the various toys and games that people have enjoyed over the centuries and as modern times approach.
“Each specific museum will feature toys and games from its own collection, so we’re really excited about that,” Thabes said.
The exhibition will also incorporate programming and other ways to engage with history, from game nights to toys that museum visitors can interact with.
“We’ll have games and toys for people to play with at the museum as part of the exhibit, and then we’re planning different game nights,” Thabes said. “I think it’s going to be a really cool exhibit.”
The purpose of these exhibits and their interactive nature is to foster a personal connection to history and to help visitors recognize their own connection to it.
“Sometimes people think of history as this far away thing, far behind them, something they read in a book or had to memorize in school,” Thabes said. “We hope this will engage more people with the story.”
By focusing on childhood experiences and memories, Thabes also hopes the exhibit will provide opportunities for older generations to connect with younger ones and form new memories.
“Play experiences with toys and games for many people are experiences of joy and happiness,” Thabes said. “I really hope people draw a connection to their childhood and spark new memories with families and generations growing up now.”
The exhibits aren’t the only exciting changes to the historical society, the museum has also recently expanded its opening hours, which was made possible by a generous donation.
The museum will now be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, which Thabes hopes will be a permanent change.
“We recognize that the limited hours we’ve had aren’t really conducive for a lot of people,” Thabes said, “we hope to make this a permanent change.”
The historical society has two major projects underway. The former transfers all of its recordings to a cloud system so that they can be accessed online, and the latter is working to repatriate certain Native American artifacts that are part of its John Morrison collection.
“We’re not only excited to be able to do the right thing for these artifacts and for the tribes, but we’re also learning about our history and our collection,” Thabes said. “It’s going to be so precious.”
With all of these changes coming this summer, Thabes is looking forward to interacting with the community and keeping them up to date with the exciting things happening with the historical society.
“There’s just a lot of really great stuff we’ve been able to deliver,” Thabes said. “It was exciting to see so much growth and work being done towards the community’s story.”