Renovations boost experience at Pioneer Museum in Fairmont

PIECES OF HISTORY — Martin County Historical Society executive director Lenny Tvedten discusses an old phone and switchboard, as well as an old till, a precursor to today’s cash register at the Pioneer Museum in Fairmont. The items or similar machines will be on display in an interactive room that will be located in the museum’s Brodt Room.

FAIRMONT — A busy summer has resulted in some completed renovation projects for the Pioneer Museum in Fairmont, consolidating previously spread-out displays and opening up new areas for visitors to explore.

In addition, the museum has completed the digitization of all it’s microfilmed newspapers for anything in the public domain (75 years or older). Those digitized archives can be accessed through the Martin County Historical Society’s website, and are available to anyone in the world. The site allows for researchers to find information via word search, which will save time compared to flipping through physical copies.

“If it’s beyond the public domain, we’ll still have that here in the museum,” said museum curator Jim Marushin. “So if you want to look up more recent things, we’ve got our media station set up in there and we can help out with that. As the next year’s public domain gets released, then that year’s newspaper will be available on the public website.”

Historical Society executive director Lenny Tvedten discussed the progress of current projects and what museum visitors will be able to look forward to in the future.

“Our retaining wall on the east side was at a 90-degree angle for a while and it was a mess out there,” he said. “But that’s all been cleaned up and looks a lot nicer. The new Kesler room was formerly a shop and now it contains all Railway Motors displays.”

Included with the displays are “birth records” of rail cars made by Railway Motors, which Tvedten has previously noted attracts attention around the world.

“The former ag room is now the archive room, which we renovated after we had some water damage,” he said. “We’ve still got some smaller items but the big ag items are out at Heritage Acres on loan.”

The museum’s Brodt Room, which formerly housed some Railway Motors displays, is in the process of becoming an interactive display room. While details about future displays were once obscure, Tvedten was now able to share some of what will be accessible.

“One of the thing’s we’re planning to put in there is front part on the Harnden’s Market building,” he said.

The Harnden Market was a long-standing vegetable market stand located on Albion Avenue near Luedtke Slough.

“Our plan is to take the counter and put it in that room so kids can see how a market like that worked, and we’ve also got a scale from that market, and we’ll have some fake vegetables the kids can pick up,” Tvedten said.

“Another thing going in that room is a 1980s vintage computer that still works so people can see how it was before we had smart phones and everything else. To be honest, I’m going to have to have the guy who gave it to us give a step by step on how to use it again.”

Other events that marked late 2018 through 2019 for the museum included a tree falling on the museum, an annual card party and book-signing by Tvedten and a book-signing by Tom Tourville. Tvedten’s book was a compilation of articles written by him on Martin County’s history, while Tourville’s book focused on Southern Minnesota’s rock ‘n’ roll history.

The museum also participated in the recent Air Race Classic and the 100th anniversary of the Interlaken Golf Club in Fairmont.

“The funding for these projects has been through grants, a portion of the [$1 million] Milbrandt grant, a grant from the Martin County Area Foundation, and a grant from the Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation,” Tvedten said. “We’re also working on a grant to increase security cameras in the building.”


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