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Notes from the Paynesville Historical Society. . .

The museum need your time - and money

By Dolores Hislop

This article is going to explore the purpose of your Paynesville Historical Museum and why it is here, and what we do.

First of all, a museum by definition, is an institution for the exhibition and preservation of works of art, and objects of natural history, science, antiquity or of popular interest, for the edification or amusement of the public.

The first great museum was the British Museum founded in 1753 and the first in America was the Philadelphia Museum established in 1785.

Your Paynesville Historical Museum had its start with an interest generated by the Lions Club of Paynesville, to preserve the history of Paynesville. A meeting was held on Oct. 23, 1969, for this reason, and from that meeting the seeds were sown for the museum to grow in this area. A curator was selected, a board of directors named and the ingathering of items began.

What a start!

From nothing to the museum of today, with all the variety of items in each exhibit, took the combined interest and effort of the community.

The first building the museum used to place the items was the former NSP building. It was located next to city hall. The purchase of a building for a more permanent site was made and the former Methodist church building was purchased and items were taken there.

How it continued to grow!

The pioneer house of the Baitinger family was donated by Dr. and Mrs. C. J. Myre which became an important asset in displaying the household items in a regular setting. Then the "Brown" schoolhouse was donated and moved into Paynesville so a one-room schoolhouse could be viewed. Again the interest of the Lions Club was instrumental to assist with payment of the moving costs.

The focus of the community continued with each item that was donated which increased the interest of the displays and finally, another building was needed.

With your support, the museum moved again and this time the move was much harder. Like regular moving days, the objects collected had to be packed, stored, unloaded and then set up in the new building that was bought so there would be room to store the additional items. Also, once again the Brown School was on the move - this time to the new location. The Lions Club once more assisted with the moving costs and we are fortunate to have the school house on the museum grounds.

This time, the items were displayed in a larger setting and first the displays were in the building purchased. Volunteers of the community came to put up partitions and set up displays and also, when the new building was finished, the partitions, painting, and setting up of exhibits also was done for that part.

One of our recent visitors was just amazed as we walked through the doors to this east part of the museum. He said the last time he visited, the doors were opened and everything was laying on piles on the floor. Now there are partitioned walls, displays, and labeled items on display. He commented on the work that had been done to get it to what we have today. When I hear people tell me about the "moving in" and the work involved with sorting, painting, and getting it ready to view, they tell it with enthusiasm and with a smile on their face. It must have been something to experience!

I am writing this article to thank all of you for your interest in the Paynesville Museum. It is not only about "old things" from the 1800s on display, but a life story of how we have lived in this area. From the bison/Indian display to the computer setting in the typewriter exhibit - a continuing interest to tell Paynesville history to each other and to others. Younger people come in now interested in family history and find a yearbook with their dad or mom's picture or a family file with names to begin to fill in the blanks on a rough chart they have started. The unique combination of the items you have given makes the museum so interesting.

Very few have ever heard of a Sunshine Lamp (the early tanning device of the late 1920s). Your museum has one, complete with carbons given by another donor. Or perhaps the Velocipede to ride down the railroad track or a feather coat from Alaska. Unique, special and Paynesville, along with "everyday" but no longer purchased items in Paynesville, like Fairway spices.

Our job at the museum is to care for your donated items, to guide visitors through the exhibits and tell Paynesville history.

We accept your donations, categorize them in the computer, label and exhibit them so others can appreciate what the museum offers. Your museum is advertised on the Internet so we have visitors coming to see an item they read about while searching there.

We thank the Lions Club, the volunteers, the board members, the past and present, and the past guides in the museum for all the work done before and the continuing work being done to "show off" Paynesville.

The museum is not just about "old things." The museum is about your family, your work, your organizations - represented in the items that are displayed here.

At this time we are in need of financial donations to keep the museum operating. The city of Paynesville gives a generous donation to the museum which covers some of the debt that has been incurred because of the new buildings and grounds. However, that does not cover the paying of bills that we all have - somewhat the same as running a household.

This year the school house was shingled, and the painting is being done on the school now as I write this article. We are grateful for the volunteers who have painted the school for us. Sometimes, it is important to ask the community for financial support and this is incorporated into this article so that you know it is really needed at this time. If you are able to donate to the museum, please send a check to the Paynesville Historical Museum, P.O. Box 35, Paynesville, MN 56362.

We also need you - your interest and your ideas. Some of the people who actually had to ask permission from Stearns County to have a museum here are no longer with us, or who are older and find it hard to do the necessary work. We are the recipients of a dream that came into reality and I think you are interested in the place which houses your donated items. Therefore, please consider volunteering at the museum also. There are still things that can be done, new displays that can be set up, or changed. If you are interested, please call Bertha Zniewski at 243-4433, or the museum at 243-7547, and we can assist you.

I know this article is long, but I thought it important to tell you what is happening and that we do need you to preserve what was started by a dedicated group of people. Thank you.