A HIDDEN JEWEL
For as long as I can remember I have been a history buff. My first teaching position in Hinckley was as an American History teacher and in my years at Hibbing High School, I taught numerous history classes. It wasn’t until the mid-eighties that my interest in history became more localized. I had left teaching for a few years and, among other things like real estate and politics, I was hired by Iron Range Resources to be a historian at their new facility-The Iron Range Interpretative Center (which became Ironworld and then the Minnesota Discovery Center).
Anyhow, in my year there my primary job was to develop/expand the ‘oral history’ element of our region’s history. What an eye-opener that work was. I had the opportunity to interview men and women (many of whom were immigrants) who had lived through the early years of mining–Slovenians, Croations, Serbians, Italians, Finns . . . and Irish. In fact nearly thirty ethnic groups settled on the Mesabi Iron Range. I learned about the labor/management issues, the unions, the violent strikes, the dangerous working conditions, along with the daily lives in Hibbing and the many surrounding locations that were like satellites to the mining hub that was Hibbing.
The offshoot of my work came a few years later when I wrote my first novel which was set in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when this area transitioned from lumbering to mining. That book became the first of a trilogy that ended with the moving of what was Hibbing to a new location two miles south of the major ore bodies of the Hull-Rust-Mahoning complex and numerous other open pit iron ore mines. My books involved countless hours of research at the Hibbing library and the Hibbing Historical Society. (Now I’m getting closer to the title of this blog).
I believe that there are few places in the United States with a richer cultural heritage than the town of Hibbing despite the fact that it was a microcosm of what was happening across the landscape of America. This morning I ran into a dear friend of mine named Leonard Hirsh. Leonard knows more about the history of this town than I ever will. I served with Leonard on the Board of Directors of the Hibbing Historical Society and Museum. It’s been some time since I’ve visited the museum so Leonard filled me in on some of the new exibits and other matters of mutual interest.
Not enough people who live here have ever visited the museum which is located in the lower level of the Hibbing Memorial Arena. Admission is free and membership in the society very reasonable. The museum is a jewel! It’s a walk through the more than a hundred years of this town and its people. Two of my favorite exhibits are a model of the original site (a logging camp) and a hand-crafted model of the city of Hibbing (circa 1913) with every house and business of the day presented on scale. There are photographs, aritfacts, and more than I can list that tell our local story in a most professional and artistic manner. When you visit–and I hope you will- say hello to Leonard and Erica from me.
PS: If you are visiting the area, or if you live here, the Minnesota Discovery Center is a world-class museum of our local history as well.
PSS: This morning I finally revisited the museum. I was astonished by the improvements that have been made in the past two years. Astounded! Many of the exhibits I knew so well were upgraded, placements were changed, new items were displayed. I also rejoined the historical society (at $15.00) and visited old friends. Now, more than ever, I recommend that– if or when you visit our fair city–you put the museum of something to do.