New logo for Koochiching County Historical Society and Museums.

Activity surrounding the Koochiching Museums is gearing up for the 2021 season.

This month, it will feature "History on Tap," a popular talking history program, but in a little different way because of the pandemic, said Ashley LaVigne, director.

History on Tap: Women in the Wild Part 3.1, is scheduled for April 15, with special speaker local author Mary Casanova joining with three other speakers to talk about six woman in Borderland's history.

"A lot of people really like it, definitely," LaVigne said, adding she's planning another program in May. She's presented the program in Fort Frances, and the Littlefork-Big Falls All Class Reunion group has asked to host one of the programs.

"It gets people talking and excited about history," she said, adding it serves as a introduction to the museum, making it more inviting and accessible. See accompanying box.

The 2020 program had been launched, adding programs in Northome, but then there was the pandemic pause.

Now, LaVigne is beginning to meet with communities, like Northome, to consider whether local folks want to see changes in the photos and exhibits at community centers and town halls in places like Mizpah, Loman, Northome, Birchdale, Ranier and International Falls.


A visible change at the museum comes in the form of a creative and fresh design for its logo. 

The new design is more representative of a continuous flowing of time and progressive change, LaVigne said. It was designed at Fight For Something, a southern Minnesota, firm.

A scanner project is allowing staff to make accessible more of the millions of archival documents, papers, records and histories, she said.

The museum recently purchased the same kind of scanner as used at the Falls Public Library, she said. While some items will be limited because of copyright laws, it will serve as the only record for other items, such as the newspaper the Mizpah Message. The museum has some of the few original editions, she added.

Scanning the items will take time and be a long-term project.

The museum's medical exhibit remains up, she said and open for viewing. A November opening of the exhibit was canceled because of reenacted state guidelines.

Meanwhile, she said the gift shop will feature a lot of new items and book titles, and she encouraged people to stop out.

The Bronko Nagurski Museum will also see a refreshing in the future.

Meanwhile, the museum relies on funding from the county for the Koochiching County history side of the dual museum and some city funding for the Bronko Nagurski side, she said.

Grants are helpful, but don't cover operational expenses, and most are project based and very competitive. Without a professional grant writer for applications, she said it can be challenging.

Support is also received from gift shop sales, admissions, donations, purchases of documents and membership, which she said accounts for $4,500 to $5,000 each year.