On a Tuesday morning in mid-August, raindrops streak the windows of the Scott County Historical Society.
“This is my favorite part of the building,” Executive Director Heather Hoagland said, standing in front of the large windows near the society’s foyer. Inside, it was warm. A large fan sitting on the front desk hummed in the background.
Hoagland, just four months into her new role, was tasked with a big job: updating the building’s HVAC units. Three of the four 25-year-old units serving the building on Fuller Street in Shakopee and charged with heating, ventilation and air conditioning, have worked intermittently since January 2018. It will cost $156,000 to replace all four of them, said Hoagland, and SCHS is seeking both public donations and major grant funding to make it happen.
The society, along with input from the Scott County Historical Society Board, has decided to close doors from December 2019 through April 2020 to accommodate the lack of temperature control throughout much of the building due to the failing HVAC system.
Office spaces and areas where artifacts are kept will be served by what’s functioning of the HVAC system, said Scott County Commissioner Barb Weckman Brekke, who also serves on the Scott County Historical Society Board. The public areas of the building are where the system fails, she said.
Hoagland said last winter, inside temperatures dropped to 39 degrees, which is simply unsafe. Scattering space heaters throughout the building could pose safety concerns and could turn out to be expensive to keep them running, she said. One of the HVAC units leaks natural gas into the building’s collection space.
While the building will not have public hours in the coming months, historical society staff will continue to work over the course of the winter months — as office space will be heated — and they’ll take research requests from the public. They’ll also open doors by appointment.
The closure means SCHS will be hitting the road with some of its programming, Weckman Brekke said, with partnerships throughout the communities it serves at places like local libraries.
The historical society is applying for a grant from the the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants program that would cover the majority of the cost to replace the units, but Hoagland said SCHS is aiming to raise about 10% of the cost, or $16,000 from the public. The more buy in from the community, the greater the chance of receiving the grant, which would cover the rest, she said.
The early pieces of the grant process was put into place under the previous executive director, Kathleen Klehr, who retired in spring 2019, Weckman Brekke said.
The historical society is an independent nonprofit, Weckman Brekke said, adding there’s no government jurisdiction over it. The historical society does get some discretionary funding from the county each year, she said, but the county will likely wrestle with what that relationship will look like in the future as there’s no mandate to fund it. Weckman Brekke said SCHS contributes “to the culture and livability of the county.”
Aside from its collections that detail the history of the county, the historical society offers education opportunities, exhibits and outreach programming, plus it completes research for those that request it. Inside the society’s research library are maps and atlases, newspapers on microfilm, family genealogies and card catalogs, among other miscellaneous resources. Among its current on-site exhibits is “Tools of the Trade,” which runs through winter 2019.
To make a donation to the historical society, call 952-445-0378 or visit its website, scottcountyhistory.org and click on the “Donate” button under “Quick Links.”