Welcome to our new blog!
Â Beltrami County Historical Society (BCHS) is happy to welcome you to our new blog.Â This is an undertaking that has involved much thought and creative energy and we hope it will become one of your favorites.
BCHS, located in The Great Northern Railroad Depot at 130 Minnesota Avenue SW in Bemidji, was completed in 1912.Â This was the last depot commissioned by â€œEmpire Builderâ€ James J. Hill.Â Trains ran to and from the depot until the late 1980s.Â The Depot was restored for use by BCHS as a history center and museum, and is an important link for physically and financially maintaining records and associated information for local, county, regional and state interests.Â The depot project not only saved and restored a landmark building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but makes BCHS a more viable resource as a â€œgatewayâ€ agency to the stateâ€™s Minnesota Historical Society, the people of Minnesota and visitors from outside the state.
Since its incorporation as a non-profit organization in 1952, BCHS has been dedicated to collecting and preserving the heritage of Beltrami County.Â BCHS preserves hundreds of artifacts in its collection, thousands of photographs, 2,000 historic maps, manuscripts, settlement artifacts, and the John G. Morrison, Jr. American Indian Collection.
In 1962, BCHS established its first location adjacent to the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center in downtown Bemidji next to the famous statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.Â At that location BCHS operated a museum, offered research assistance, and pursued its mission of preserving history for more than 20 years.Â In 1993 BCHS moved to a building located at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds where it operated as a research center with no exhibit space or museum.Â In 1999 a collaborative vision to bring BCHS and the museum back to downtown Bemidji became a community-wide priority and the restoration of the James J. Hill railroad depot became a reality with the grand opening of the first exhibit, â€œPathways Through Historyâ€, on April 30, 2001.Â The City of Bemidji has retained ownership of the depot and BCHS leases it annually.
Â The building and BCHS together provide a focus for historical preservation and encourage visitor movement into the downtown area, thus supporting and contributing to the economic health and growth of this community and the future viability of the Beltrami County Historical Society.Â More than 10,000 people visit the center every year, which is a boost to our revenues, downtown businesses, and awareness of the rich heritage of Beltrami County.
Director Wanda Hoyum has presided for more than 14 years and has played a critical role in building BCHS into one of the premier organizations in Minnesota, dealing daily with visitors, donors, and other historical societies.Â â€œWe have people come here from the Smithsonian and Minnesota Historical Society, and theyâ€™re just in awe of what weâ€™ve done on our shoestring budget.Â You wonâ€™t find any other building, any other caliber of exhibits from here to the Canadian Border,â€ Hoyum stated.
Professionally constructed by volunteer and designer Nicole Foss, the current exhibit is â€œDoctor, Doctor, Give Me the Newsâ€ which explores the history of early medicine in Beltrami County.Â This is a moving exhibition capturing the sights and sounds of early healthcare while exploring various facets of healing techniques in Beltrami County from traditional Ojibwe healing, concocted home remedies, the tonic ofÂ fresh air surrounding Lake Julia Sanitorium, Â to early dentistry.Â The museum also features the John G. Morrison, Jr. American Indian Collection, currently showing Baskets and Beads.Â The restored Telegrapher Office is complete with logging and railroad history, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, and an active scale model railway system.Â Also for your viewing enjoyment is a rotating art gallery display provided by Gallery North of Bemidji, and an archival emporium exhibit, Women Through The Ages, showcasing the beauty of early wedding dresses.Â
Â BCHS is pleased to report that a grant was recently awarded from the George W. Neilson Foundation which will cover part of the cost of another historical documentary, â€œThe Middle Years â€“ 1941-1963â€.Â The project, a joint effort between BCHS and Gary Burger Video-Audio, will be a 56-minute television documentary about Bemidji and Beltrami Countyâ€™s history. The documentary will begin on December 7, 1941 and end at the beginning of Americaâ€™s involvement in Vietnam and John F. Kennedyâ€™s assassination in 1963. Beltrami County residents who lived here during these historically powerful years will tell their stories through a series of interviews along with local and national film footage and still photographs to provide a historical overview.
BCHS was also awarded a grant for the documentary from the Region 2 Arts Council.Â This activity is funded in part by a Region 2 Arts Council Grant through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund passed by Minnesota voters on November 4, 2008.
Because fundraising is always a challenge, you can help by donating financial assistance or photographs for this documentary.Â Just call the History Center at 218-444-3376.Â All contributions will be recognized in the documentary credit listing.
We are open year-round, Monday-Saturday, 10:00 am-4:00 pm, excepting holidays.Â Admission to the museum is $5.00 for adults, $4.00 for senior citizens (62+) and students, and $1.00 for children under 12.Â BCHS offers yearly memberships to individuals and businesses as an on-going fundraiser to pay operating expenses.Â Call 444-3376 for more information.