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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

Winter Newsletter 2013

The Dorothy Molter Museum preserves and interprets northwoods wilderness heritage through learning opportunities inspired by Dorothy Molter, the last non-indigenous resident of the BWCA.

Happy New Year on behalf of the board of directors and staff of your favorite museum honoring the memory of the legendary Dorothy Molter. You may have noticed a new mission statement at the top of this newsletter.

This past fall, our new curator, Mary Parks, facilitated the creation of a five-year strategic plan as well as a new mission and vision statement. Volunteering to help with the process were guides Peg Rosett, Bob Niewierowski, Nancy McReady, JoAnn Bird, and Edye Ruoho. Board members Patti Crager and Sherry Abts, along with Administrative Assistants Terri Schocke and Theresa Johnson, also joined in the fun.

Our first meeting consisted of one hour of serious brainstorming followed by a potluck and viewing of the PBS special, “Rare Finds”. This documentary featured ten historic attractions in Northeastern Minnesota. The Dorothy Molter Museum was the last museum featured (I guess they saved the best for last!). Judy Hadel Morrissey, the original film maker of the DVD that we show at the museum(Dorothy Molter: Living in the Boundary Waters), was the videographer assigned to the story. It was a sentimental and tender day for her re-visiting the cabins and reminiscing about her time spent up at the Isle of Pines in the 1980′s. The video was very well received and we have heard many nice comments about the film.

Edye Ruoho was kind enough to host our second meeting. Her house was charmingly decorated for Christmas and many people brought treats. It was hard for us to settle down to work in such a festive atmosphere but Mary did a great job of reigning in our energy.

Once Mary compiled all the data, she and I met at A Taste of Ely (a local restaurant and new museum business member) to hammer out the final plan. After coffee, lunch and two and a half hours we had the finished product ready to present to the board. The Dorothy Molter Museum Strategic Plan was adopted by the board of directors at the annual meeting held Dec. 11th, 2012. I hope you will take some time to look at our plan and give us feedback on the project priorities we have identified.

Our primary motivation for creating the plan was to fulfill a requirement for applying for IMLS grants. Following this message Mary will describe in detail where we are at with grant opportunities.

As always, your commitment to supporting the museum means so much. May 2013 be filled with joy and appreciation for the good things in life.


Sarah Guy-Levar
Executive Director

A Message from Mary

Dear Members,

I am very pleased to announce that the museum has received a $6,300 Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant from the Minnesota Historical Society (MSH), as well as a $5,000 grant from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB).

The MHS grant was awarded to improve storage conditions at the museum. With this money, we were able to order archival storage supplies and are now in the process of storing objects in their new homes. Some of the objects being re-housed include photographs, newspaper articles, Dorothy’s original guest registers, journals, and Christmas tree ornaments. By the time the project is complete, approximately 10% of the museum’s collection will have upgraded storage environments.

The $5,000 from IRRRB was awarded to make improvements to the Point Cabin exhibit. A generous lifetime member provided a $5,000 match for the project. We are currently planning the new exhibit and will be moving many of the items currently on view to storage. We will also be adding new signage to the display. The end result will be a more-spacious and informative exhibit which will be rotated on a regular basis to ensure the long-term preservation of the collection.

With those projects underway, we are now in the process of applying for two additional grants: another grant from MHS to write a formal Collections Management Policy and Collections Plan, as well a Grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to create an interactive kiosk featuring digital copies of Dorothy’s original guest registers. Look for updates on these grants in our next newsletter.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for the museum’s newest publication: a Dorothy Molter children’s coloring book featuring artwork by Bob Cary, Laura Young, and Nora Wildgen. During “Give to the Max Day,” the museum raised $475 towards the printing of the book. Lake Country Power also contributed $250 through their “Operation Round Up” program. We are still working to raise funds for this project – please contact the museum if you are interested in contributing.

Finally, don’t miss Dorothy Molter’s first display in the Ely Art Walk. Each year during the annual Winter Festival, the city of Ely is transformed into a series of mini-art galleries exhibiting work from more than 150 artists in downtown shops and windows. This year, from February 1-10, a selection of Dorothy’s handmade Christmas ornaments will be featured in one of the windows. To find out exactly where you can find Dorothy’s display, pick up a copy of the Art Walk map, or visit Ely Art Walk.

Mary Parks


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