Area museums exhibit international co-operation

Ask a museum curator what was significant about May 18 and the answer may come as a surprise.
May 18 wasn’t just Victoria Day here in Canada, it also happened to be International Museum’s Day–set aside in recognition of the important role museums play in the collection and preservation of history.
For six area museums, located within about a 120-mile radius of each other, the word “international” has taken on a unique and mutually co-operative value.
The museums (members of the International Museums Association) include the Fort Frances Museum, Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung (Manitou Mounds), Lake of the Woods County Museum (Baudette), Minnesota Historical Society Grand Mound Centre (near Loman), Koochiching County Historical Museum & Bronko Nagurski Museum (International Falls), and the Rainy Lake Visitors Centre in Voyageurs National Park (near Ranier).
While the focus of each museum is on artifacts specific to their area, they’ve always shared a historical thread going back some 10,000 years in the Rainy River region, explained museum intern Kateri Vrakking.
Hired by the IMA to co-ordinate strategies focused on increased productivity, Vrakking also helped members develop a specific market plan, which was packaged up into an international passport for tourists called “Travel Through Time.”
The passport, available at all six locations, contains a map marking the route to each site as well as individual museum brochures and a registration card for a discount on admission fees.
“Our histories are definitely tied together through our closeness,” said Vrakking, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Trenton University and a museum certificate from Sir Sanford Fleming College.
“We are geographically, historically, and traditionally close. People were in this region 10,000 years ago,” she stressed. “You can’t have drawn a [boundary] line 200 years ago and ignore all of [that].”
“The history of the region is the same,” echoed Pam Hawley, curator at the Fort Frances Museum. “Kateri helped reinforce the idea that we can all work together collectively and share our resources–instead of thinking in terms of “me and them.”
Hawley said one of the spin-offs of the IMA working co-operatively was ready access to an information pool from local peers–a valuable alternative for a region somewhat removed from major centres.
“We are so isolated from other networking colleagues. It’s good to have someone to fall back on instead of trying to get someone in from Toronto for example,” she reasoned.
Vrakking said the fact that two Canadian and four American museum sites could work together to achieve their goals was a tribute to the region–and one she hadn’t come across anywhere else.
“From where I come from, it’s very unique. For museums in Ontario and Minnesota to have been able to work together successfully is very interesting,” she noted.
“I hope other museums can take initiatives from us and get more productive,” she added. “The public will benefit from that.”