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Beltrami County Historical Society receives Legacy Grant for digitization of records

The Beltrami County Historical Society recently received a Minnesota Cultural and Heritage Grant in support of digitization of reel-to-reel history recordings.

BCHS Women in Winter Sports
The Beltrami County History Center is located at 130 Minnesota Ave. SW in Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI -- The Beltrami County Historical Society recently received a Minnesota Cultural and Heritage Grant in support of digitization of reel-to-reel history recordings.

The BCHS archives contain almost 150 oral history tapes, made mainly in the early 1950s. The recordings were done on reel-to-reel tapes by Dr. Charles Vandersluis, a founding member of the Historical Society, historian and author of several books of local history, a release said.

Most of the interviewees were original Native American inhabitants, early settlers to the Bemidji area, and local community members and business owners.

Few of the tapes have been listened to since they were originally recorded, and now the reel-to-reel tape technology is out of date, the release said. The digitization will allow the stories to be heard and make them publicly accessible for the first time.

“I am pleased to let you know that the Minnesota Historical Society has awarded a Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant to the Beltrami County Historical Society,” said Brenda Raney, senior director of the preservation and outreach division of MHS, in a letter announcing the approval of the grant. “The Society is honored to support your efforts to preserve our state’s heritage.”

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“This Legacy Grant brings to life community histories previously lost to time and outmoded technology," said BCHS Executive Director Emily Thabes in the release. "We are already exploring future funding for the transcription of the tapes to maximize accessibility of these interviews and stories to the public.”

“These tapes contain almost 150 stories, with content about Beltrami County, its history and its residents, that we know virtually nothing about,” said BCHS Board President Dan Allosso in the release. “These stories have the potential to add significant information to our knowledge of our own local history before it’s permanently lost. And not only will this project help us save the stories, and preserve the words, but it also will help save the very voices in which the stories have been told.”

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