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Beltrami County Historical Society: Reorganization underway, new director hired

Newly elected Beltrami County Historical Society President Sharon Gieson announced Tuesday evening the hiring Nicole Foss as the part-time interim director.

Foss will work five days a week and the Beltrami County History Center, 130 Minnesota Ave. S.W., will reopen from noon-4 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays. The museum had been closed since the resignation of full-time Director Wanda Hoyum July 1.

Foss said she spent her childhood in Bemidji, but recently returned from Lansing, Mich. She has degrees in anthropology and historical archeology and had been working at the History Center as a volunteer and consultant. She is the designer of the current exhibits of "Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News," a display of antique medical techniques and equipment, and the John Morrison American Indian artifact collection.

"I love museums," Foss said. History is my passion."

Gieson said a committee led by Charlie Parsons was also reworking the society's bylaws. The committee members are seeking input from membership on any changes, she said.

Board member Andy Mack described the rescue and rehabilitation during the 1990s of the derelict 1912 Great Northern Depot, which now houses the museum. It was the last railroad station commissioned by Empire Builder James Hill. It was last served by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad in about 1980, he said.

The city of Bemidji owns the building and gives the Historical Society the right to occupy it rent free. The Historical Society just has to pay utilities on the building. Burlington Northern owns the land. Beltrami County also provides grant funds for operations. In addition to the Great Northern Depot building, the Saum School and a schoolhouse and the Doud Cabin on the Beltrami County Fairgrounds are part of the museum. He said discussion is underway concerning more collaboration with the historical societies that maintain museums in Blackduck and Kelliher.