CEDAR FALLS — In the time it takes you to read this sentence, it is already in the past. “That’s history happening right now, and it doesn’t have to be dry, boring, dusty or academic,” said Julie Huffman-klinkowitz, collections manager at the Cedar Falls Historical Society.
The historical society is making its own history with their “Connect and Protect Campaign” to raise $1.825 million for its newest museum. The facility at 315 Clay St. will make Cedar Falls’ history interactive, hands-on and exciting, she said.
Approximately 73 percent of the fundraising goal has been met through private donations and grants since the campaign began in 2017, said Executive Director Carrie Eilderts.
A new grassroots campaign launched this week will make an appeal for public donations.
This will be the first-of-its-kind museum in Cedar Falls, Eilderts said. “No other museum in Cedar Falls tells the full story of the entire community from its settlement to present day. The new building means we’ll be able to share more of that history and artifacts in an interactive way.”
This week, the historical society’s board of directors approved hiring Bluewater Studio of Milwaukee to plan, design, fabricate and install exhibits for the new museum. “We are all very excited about this choice and are confident in Bluewater’s ability to create a modern, interactive museum that appeals to all ages. We are looking forward to working with Bluewater to bring our vision to life,” Eilderts said.
Located just around the corner from the Victorian Home & Carriage House Museum, the existing structure was acquired in 2016. Funds being raised are earmarked for renovations and paying off the purchase price of the building, as well as constructing a two-story addition and providing for an endowment fund.
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Ground-breaking is expected to take place in August or September. Target date for completion is September or October 2020, with a grand opening in late 2020 or early 2021.
Renovations will create space for a large, main-level classroom for educational programming and events. “Now we can only seat about 40 in the Victorian Home classroom. We’ll be able to seat larger groups — 80 to 100 — in the new space,” Eilderts explained.
The lower level already has been reconfigured and updated to accommodate collections that had previously been stored in rental units. Yesterday’s Heritage Questers, Iowa Questers and a REAP-funded HRDP grant funded new climate-controlled storage units for preserving the collection. There is enough space, Huffman-klinkowitz said, “to ensure that for the next 50 to 75 years, we have room to expand storage.”
The two-story addition will house galleries for the Bluewater interactive exhibits, as well as tell the story of business, industry, agriculture and transportation in Cedar Falls using STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts. Huffman-klinkowitz also is collaborating with students in the University of Northern Iowa geography department to create digital maps to show growth and change in Cedar Falls.
Transportation will be the focus on the second floor, including an extensive model train collection made by world-famous model maker William J. Lenoir.
“Cedar Falls is a wonderful community with a rich history. We want to foster community pride and make sure this history is passed on to future generations. A lot of people don’t think to engage with us unless there is a question about Cedar Falls history or genealogy they want us to answer. But we’re here all the time, preserving community history,” Huffman-klinkowitz explained.
Additional money will need to be raised to furnish the interiors and pay for exhibits, Eilderts said.
To make a donation or request a form with donation levels, contact the historical society at 308 W. Third St., Cedar Falls 50613, call 266-5149 or visit the website at www.cfhistory.org. Donors can make a one-time gift or arrange for ongoing donations on a monthly or quarterly basis. They also may direct their gifts to construction, endowment, exhibits, etc.