FLORENCE, Wis. – The Florence County Historical Museum may now be closed, but that doesn’t stop preparations for its 2023 season.
The Florence County Historical Society, founded in 1980 after the city and county of Florence celebrated its centennial, officially opened its museum in 2007 at 201 Florence Ave., the center of the city’s historic district.
The museum features three permanent exhibits — Hiram Damon “HD” Fisher and his family, considered the founding father of the county of Florence; the heritage of iron and wood; and the Military Hall honoring local veterans.
“We are still expanding these every year with new artifacts and photos – especially our veterans area,” said Florence County Historical Society Secretary/Treasurer Debbie DeMuri, who is the last original member of the committee.
In addition to the permanent exhibits, the society develops several new exhibits each season during the winter months. Other areas the company has focused on over the years include personalities, businesses, farms, churches and schools.
“We have launched several ideas for next year”, DeMuri said.
The featured exhibition of 2022 was “Out of the Past” — a collection of sundries of county interest.
“This year there was a variety of historical subjects, from cemeteries to the old jail and the sheriff”, DeMuri said. “We can save this one for next year.”
The museum has accumulated an extensive collection of photographs from the county’s eight townships.
“The 2,000 physical photos have been digitized” she noted. “It’s something we specialize in right now.”
During the winter months, these photographs are transferred to Kent Walstrom’s fourth grade classroom in the Florence County School District. “This is the year they study Wisconsin history,” she says. “He (Kent Wahlstrom) is doing a good job with them.”
Every spring, fourth-grade students can visit the museum as well as visit the courthouse and the old prison. “It gives them an idea of the history of the county of Florence”, DeMuri said.
Historical Society President Karen Wertanen also plans to resume the guided walk through the historic building in Florence, with dates in July and August.
The boardwalk showcases over 30 historic sites in the downtown district. The guide used for the event was originally developed by a geography class at Florence County High School under the guidance of teacher Pam Smith.
“This reference book includes details on each stop,” she says.
DeMuri added that it was a very popular event for the museum that had been postponed for the past two years due to the pandemic.
“We look forward to getting started again and will announce more details after our spring meeting,” she says.
The company hopes to integrate a virtual cemetery walk during the 2023 season, with plans to focus on the three cemeteries first – Woodlawn, Commonwealth and St. Mary’s.
“These cemeteries are really not walkable, so we thought we could do a PowerPoint presentation,” she says.
A lot of research has already been done for the project, DeMuri said. The first presentation will feature unique stones from early settlers and those that have played an important role in the county’s history.
In the future, they could expand to others, as every township has a cemetery except Fern, she noted.
The company hopes the new event could be a potential fundraiser for the museum. “We could possibly show up at the library or at a special luncheon,” DeMuri said.
The Florence County Historical Society’s only annual fundraiser is the Strawberry Social and Quilt and Craft Show, in conjunction with its quilt raffle. Next year’s show is scheduled for July 15 at Maxsell’s in Florence.
“Even as small as we are, it still takes funds to set it up,” DeMuri said. “We are very lucky that Don and Rachel Egelseer gave us the building to use for free, as we don’t have the funds to purchase one.”
They again plan to hold a Veterans Day Recognition honoring special guests.
“We recently discussed the organization of a seniors’ day”, she says.
Members plan to re-evaluate next year’s plans at the spring meeting, as well as confirm dates.
The company plans to reach out to the community in hopes of getting more people interested in the museum. They currently have eight active members, plus several who support and are life members of the museum.
They are always looking for new members. Some of the areas they need help with are museum guides, exhibit finder, new exhibit design/installation, and catalog artifacts.
The museum will open for the 2023 season on June 10. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to noon Thursday through Saturday.
“If we had more volunteers, maybe we could open more hours during the week,” DeMuri said.
The museum does not charge for admission, relying solely on donations and its annual fundraiser.
They welcomed around 200 visitors during the 40 days of operation from June to September.
DeMuri also noted that they help with research, including obituaries. The library has journals on microfilm dating from 1881 to 2012. Issues after this period can be found on the website.
For more information on the Florence County Historical Museum or Historical Society, visit the website at https://www.florencewihistory.org/ or their Facebook page.
The committee also welcomes artifacts, photographs and ideas for events or exhibits.
Those interested in becoming a member or wishing to make a donation can contact DeMuri at 715-528-3597.