Grants fund renovations at Pioneer Museum in Fairmont

The former Ag Room at the Pioneer Museum in Fairmont has been renovated into the new Archive Room.

There are some major changes taking place at the Pioneer Museum in Fairmont.

Utilizing grant funding, the Martin County Historical Society is in the process of renovating various museum rooms, relocating display items and digitizing microfilm.

“It’s kind of a domino effect,” said Historical Society executive director Lenny Tvedten. “In the Brodt Room, there’s a lot of things from Railway Motors, photo albums and some equipment. They are going to go down to what I’m calling the shop, which is being totally renovated.

“This room (the Brodt Room) will become our interactive room where children and adults can touch and feel the displayed items. In a museum, we always tell kids don’t touch this or that, so it will be nice to have a room where they can do those kind of things. I can’t tell you what is all going to be in here; it’s going to evolve over time.”

All the Railway Motors items in different locations throughout the museum will be relocated to the renovated “shop” area. This includes what are known as “birth records” of rail cars made by Railway Motors over the years. Tvedten said the museum receives calls from people from around the world who buy rail cars and want to restore them utilizing the exact specifications of how they were made.

Another change is a new archive room, in the renovated former Ag Room.

“[The Ag Room] had a lot of big things like plows and sharp objects and I couldn’t take kids in here,” Tvedten said. “The lighting wasn’t good, and there was a water leak that ruined the floor, so the decision was made to renovate this into the archive room.

“It has Fairmont yearbooks from way in the past, Chamber of Commerce yearbooks, maps, blueprints and all the records of country school districts. These are all sorts of things that were scattered all over, and now they’re here in one central location.”

Tvedten noted that the ag items are not gone, just relocated. There are still some in the museum while larger items are on loan and can be found at Heritage Acres.

So, how are all of these changes funded?

“The Archive Room was funded mainly with grants,” Tvedten said. “We got a grant from the Martin County Area Foundation for three new furnaces, and we’re using a portion of the [$1 million] Milbrandt estate bequest for the shop.

“Another thing we’re doing is digitizing the microfilm, and for that we received a grant from the Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation in Rochester, and the balance will be paid with the Milbrandt funding. Everything in the public domain that’s 75 years or older will be online, and the newer will be right here at the museum.”

Tvedten said the digitizing will allow for ease of research by staff, as well as allow research from anywhere in the world. In addition, it is a preservation effort as it will save the microfilm itself.

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