ST. CLOUD -- Have you ever wondered where artifacts go when they are not on display at the Stearns History Museum?

That’s where the storage facility comes in. Getting to the 18,000 square foot building requires a short off-road trip down a winding road behind the museum. Inside, items are sorted by type in cold and climate-controlled rooms that can be cavernous at times.

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Exhibits and Collections Curator Eric Cheever says deciding what pieces to bring over to the museum is a process.

That completely is dictated by the subject of the exhibit. So, we choose the subject first, and then we search collections to see what we've got to support the exhibit. And at this point in time, the other building is full, so basically, everything that goes into storage currently goes into this space.

The Old Settler’s Society began collecting and preserving artifacts in 1873, the Stearns County Historical Society was founded in 1936, and the current museum was designed and built in the early 1980s.

Donated items range from farm implements and vehicles to housewares and art, and between onsite storage and the outbuilding, the museum is nearing capacity.

Executive Director Carie Essig says staff members are working to reduce the strain on space by sorting through the collection and removing pieces that are deteriorating, duplicated, or irrelevant to the county’s history.

Now that we have the staff that have the training, and we've had that staff for a number of years, we're slowly starting to weed through the stuff, so to speak, and figure out which things we really do need to keep, which are sort of the things that really really reflect Stearns County and Stearns County history, and those things that maybe we're not sure if they even do. Those things we try to rehome.

Nearly unreachable in the winter, the storage building’s location also creates challenges when moving objects during snowy or rainy months.

Essig says ideally, they would one day like to have the entire collection and active exhibits all housed under one roof.


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