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Spring 2013 Newsletter

From the Executive Director

According to Dorothy’s Christmas letter of 1961 (written by Louie the Loon), the first loon of the season landed on Knife Lake on April 26th and the ice wasn’t completely gone until May 6th.

Well, I think we will surpass those dates this spring! As of today, April 18th, 2013, Knife Lake has about 30” of ice. We are expecting another snow storm this afternoon with predictions of 4-7” of new accumulation. Although we are weary, there is an upside. The snow provides much needed moisture for areas experiencing severe drought. (Update- the Ely area received 14-20 inches of snow on one day in mid-April!)

Louie the Loon’s letter goes on to describe an ice phenomenon on Otter Track Lake, a lake just to the northeast of Knife. The lake is long and narrow with high rock ridges on the north and south.

The ice was nearly all gone on May 6th, but long after that, you could see “icebergs” here and there on the south shore of a few lakes where it was sheltered from the sun. The water rolls down from some little pond or swamp on the hill, and freezes. During the winter this becomes a mass of ice, and from a distance, it looks like a waterfall, with foaming white water. Otter Track is a good place to see these “icebergs.” You may see three or four, or more of them there. One year –that long hard winter we had — I forget what year is was — about 1950, I think, when the ice didn’t go out until May 30th (Dorothy calls it the year of the two winters), well anyhow you could still see these “icebergs” in July.

Local fishermen would seek out the “frozen waterfall” areas in the late spring and early summer to harvest ice to keep their fish cold. I bet this year’s anglers will be able to do the same and I might have to send a party or two out to Otter Track Lake in search of icebergs this July!

According to Paul Huttner, meteorologist for Minnesota Public Radio:

As we all slog through what is hopefully the ‘last worst” week of “spring in Minnesota” keep one thing in mind. Our weather pattern can, and probably will change for the better… and warmer soon. Even in what seems like a series of extremes, nature has a way of balancing things out. The snow will melt. The lakes will thaw. Birds will sing and flowers will bloom.


Thanks for the encouraging words Paul.

On a more positive note, we are not letting the weather slow us down.

You will see big improvements at the museum this summer. Starting off, we are in the process of remodeling the Interpretive Center. Our growth has made it necessary to remove the theater portion of the Interpretive Center.

The film will now be shown as part of the new exhibit in the Point Cabin. Kara Polyner of Border Country Sign Company will be “upcycling” the dismantled wall as part of the materials used to create the new exhibits. This provided cost saving measures and also prevented a trip to the landfill. We are excited about Kara’s willingness to use this resource.

Mary Parks and Kara have been working together to create a phenomenal new exhibit. Kara was the genius behind our new signage a few years ago so we expect very positive results.

Speaking of Mary Parks, I am very happy to report the board of directors overwhelmingly approved to add Mary to our staff as curator.

Mary’s position will be three-quarter time on a year-round basis. Mary has proven herself to be a serious asset to the museum. Her knowledge of museum practices, grant writing skills, and programming ideas are boundless.

If you are in the area this summer, please take the time to stop by and welcome her. It is so important we acknowledge her efforts in making the Dorothy Molter Museum not just a roadside attraction, but a sustainable, truly legitimate, historic, educational facility.

We have also added a new tour guide to replace Cynthia and Moriah Barker. We will miss the Barker mother/daughter combo but are excited to add Andie Mattei to our line-up. Andie is a smart, vivacious “Ely girl,” just finishing up her freshman year at Concordia College. Andie’s intelligence combined with her theatrical talents will make her a very informative and entertaining tour guide.

And finally, I want to share with you a special goal for this summer. Dorothy typically had around 7,000 guests a summer stop by her cabins. The museum averages around 5,000. Now, what’s wrong with this picture? Dorothy’s islands were 15 miles from the nearest road … and she had more visitors than we do???!!!!

Our goal this summer? 7,000 visitors! So stop in and see us! Looking forward to YOUR visit as we celebrate 20 years of remembering and honoring Dorothy Molter.

Sarah Guy-Levar
Executive Director

From the Curator

Over the winter we have been very busy getting ready for the museum’s 20th anniversary season. Just a few of the projects we’ve been working on in the areas of collections and programming are listed here.

This spring we are proud to introduce the museum’s latest publication: The Dorothy Molter Coloring Book. This 36-page book provides the museum’s youngest visitors with a sense of place, ownership in the area’s history, and a relationship with Dorothy Molter, one of our area’s most inspiring cultural icons. Through games and illustrations by artists Bob Cary, Laura Young and Nora Wildgen, the coloring book gives children a take-away learning opportunity to enjoy at home or in the classroom. Funding for the project was provided by the Ely Area Community Foundation (EACF) and Lake Country Power, through their Operation Round Up program. The illustrations for the book were generously provided by the artists; Mike Tincher of TDesigns also donated his services for the project.

This summer we will be presenting our new Point Cabin exhibit, Dorothy Molter: Living in the Boundary Waters. By combining objects and photographs from the museum’s collection with quotes and clips from the 1987 documentary film of the same name, this exhibit illustrates how Dorothy Molter embodies the spirit and inspiration of the northwoods wilderness. Funding for the exhibit was provided through a grant from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), as well as through generous private donations.

On Sunday, June 23rd the Museum will host a free Dorothy Day for children and their families. During the event, the museum will offer tours of Dorothy’s Cabins, guided hikes of the Museum’s interpretive trail, an interactive naturalist presentation, nature crafts for children, and more. To carry out Dorothy Day, the museum is collaborating with Wild Within, an Ely-based children’s program specializing in outdoor education. Volunteers from the Ely Field Naturalists will also help staff the event. Through fun, hands-on activities, Dorothy Day participants will gain an understanding of how the ecosystem and culture of the northwoods are an important part of our area’s past, present and future. Partial funding for the event was provided by the Ely Area Early Childhood Coalition, as well as by the Ely Area Community Foundation.

Behind the scenes at the museum, our focus during the past several months has been on improving storage conditions for our collection. New shelves have been installed and many objects have been transferred to archival-quality storage containers. Long-term preservation of the collection through the use of professional museum practices is an ongoing priority for the Museum. The current storage improvements were funded by a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Moving forward, we are focusing on completing the Museum’s Disaster Plan, as well as on creating a Collections Management Policy and a Collections Plan. The Disaster Plan will ensure that the Museum is equipped to respond in an organized and productive manner in the event of an emergency or disaster.

The Collections Management Policy will formally lay the groundwork for all of the Museum’s collecting activity – defining areas of collection, setting standards for collections care, and guide decisions on how the collection will be used. The Collections Plan will formalize the Museum’s collecting priorities for the next several years, detailing what is to be collected and why. All of these projects are funded by Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Thank you to everyone who has helped with these exciting projects! With your contributions, the Museum’s 20th anniversary season is bound to be one of our best.

Mary Parks

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