ST. CLOUD - The Stearns History Museum has become the first Smithsonian Affiliate in Minnesota.

Smithsonian Affiliations Director Harold Closter says the Stearns Museum is the type of museum they've had their most successful partnerships with.

By being an affiliate, the Stearns Museum will have greater access to the millions of artifacts in the Smithsonian collection.  Museum members will also have the potential for more educational programs.

Closter says the program allows them to share history across the country.

Closter says one area that's critical to them is to find ways to engage students across the country.

Stearns History Museum Executive Director Tim Hoheisel says the benefits of becoming an affiliate will be gradual. Attendance at some affiliates has increased by as much as 50 percent as a result of loaned Smithsonian collections

Of the 562 museums in Minnesota, the Stearns History Museum is the first one to be granted the Smithsonian Affiliate status.  There is an annual fee of $2,500.

There are 181 Smithsonian Affiliates in more than 40 states.

The Stearns County Historical Society was formed in 1936, it has since transitioned into the Stearns History Museum and Research Center.  They've been located in their current building at 235 S. 33rd Avenue in Heritage Park since 1984.  They have nine full-time, and two part-time staff members.