I wish every visitor could experience the old courthouse museum as I do, unlocking each room and feeling spirits of the past brought to life for another day.
Closing time is just as eerie: I lock the dark collections for another night in rooms that have held that same smell of dusty foundation stone for 121 years.
The displays develop nearly a dozen collections in as many rooms, from the authentic 1940s schoolroom to the dark pioneer cabin – one blanket is labeled 1790s!
Kids marvel at the furry logging oxen from Scotland, and see if they can locate all eight fireproof vaults that protected Hubbard County records through the 1970s.
Downstairs, the Resort Room brings back memories. As co-directors this season, my sister, Tami Hensel, and I grew up on Potato Lake when our mom ran Kozy Kove (charging $42 a week for a cabin plus boat, as our brochure at the museum shows).
Tami is in her fifth decade of living here, and we both recall the Little Log Museum that preceded our well-stuffed courthouse.
What a treat it’s been to learn about the museum from the inside! The board of directors is taking the museum in interesting new directions, too: A summer intern is designing a visual inventory system to document items by record number and location.
We’re compiling a list of research references both on- and off-site, including our microfilms and documents but also surveying what the newspaper, courthouse and library have that relates to county history and genealogy. This will help because we get a dizzying range of questions that sometimes even our best volunteers can’t answer.
Hensel is designing an all-ages geocaching project to draw visitors to nearby historical sites and then to draw them to the museum to claim little prizes ranging from postcards to books.
She also is designing an architectural history scavenger hunt in partnership with local businesses.
The board has approved improved security and displays, with many video cameras and a glass case to protect detailed logging models that a donor has helped to fund.
The museum had a slow year during the pandemic, but new media proved essential for educational outreach and community-building. We’re reaching out via Facebook, Instagram and (soon) Twitter as well as a paper newsletter. Posting visitors’ photos in their favorite museum places builds interest, memberships and donations. Posts featuring museum holdings build visitor interest in the off-season, and we can encourage membership gifts at Christmas by posting colorful old cards.
We ask for visitor emails on sign-in sheets, and will ask visitors and hundreds of Facebook followers to consider membership. It’s only $10 and includes newsletters and voting rights.
So please visit to entertain your guests, or make an annual rainy-day tour with kids, or join our monthly history presentations (and consider supporting us with memberships and donations via email@example.com).
This museum is our deep memory vault; it shows past generations’ material genius and survival wisdom. We hope it will continue to inspire families to share their memories, then to return to visit their heirlooms. (If your ancestors are among those spirits of the past I greet each morning, they’d love to see you, too!)
Val Crawford is co-director of the Hubbard County Historical Museum.