September 14, 2011

Tough choices ahead for museum

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

A big piece of McKenzie County’s history is threatening to fall apart. But Alexander residents are struggling to keep it intact.
In 1969, the Lewis & Clark Trail Museum opened its doors in the converted old Alexander School building, which was originally built in 1914.
According to Donna Sims, museum board chairman, the building has had water problems since it opened. But those water issues have taken on a more serious tone as  the boiler room, which is located in the lowest part of the building, is swimming in three feet of water.
But water problems are just the beginning of a long and very expensive list of repairs facing the museum board as they address the museum’s future.
“The building needs to have its foundation and roof repaired,” states Sims. “But a bigger concern is the gymnasium and locker rooms, which have deteriorated due to major water damage and mold. These areas need constant upkeep and repairs.”
Museum board members and city residents feel torn when faced with the decision of what to do with the building, and more importantly, the artifacts that have been on display.
“Building a new museum would be expensive and difficult with the way things are around here right now,” states Sims. “But with our museum building just two years away from being 100 years old, and with it needing so much work, it may not be salvageable.”
Sims shares a love of the building with many Alexander residents, but if it can’t be saved, her concern is for the items within the museum.
“There are things in here that a lot of museums would want, and they were donated from local people,” Sims states.
In addition to the exhibits, there are ‘Hall of Fame’ boxes that have been purchased by local families to display however they choose.
“We have families that would like to purchase and display a box and we don’t have room for any more,” says Sims. “It would be nice to have more room for them, and make them more accessible to visitors.”
The museum is full of vintage clothing, vehicles, house appliances and so much more, which has been donated by local families.
“There are beautifully-kept pieces of Alexander and North Dakota history that need to be preserved,” states  Sims.
While Sims and the museum board are doing their best to make sure that the history that has been entrusted to them is preserved, the current condition of the building is working against them.
The mold and water are not only deteriorating the building foundation and some gym walls, but they are potentially dangerous to the museum’s antiques and exhibits.
Right now, according to Sims, the board is in the first stages of a decision-making process to determine its best course of action. As part of the process, the board is obtaining quotes and trying to figure out what they need to do first before the winter weather brings more moisture.
Persons interested in more information on the efforts to save the museum can follow the updates on Facebook: helpsavethealexandermuseum.