When the St. Louis County Depot in Duluth reopens its doors to the public Thursday, visitors will have two new exhibits to peruse in the St. Louis County Historical Society and Veterans Memorial Hall sections.

"With the addition of new, temporary exhibits, ongoing inventory projects, new staff and more programs and events to come, the St. Louis County Historical Society is poised for an exciting revitalization. We are updating everything from our collections management to community outreach,” SLCHS curator Natalie Walker said.

First, near the Veterans Memorial Hall entrance, there will be a new free-standing, self-contained exhibit spotlighting Duluthian Joseph "Joe" P. Gomer, who fought in World War II as a member of the first African American unit of the Army Air Corps.

Gomer was part of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, later known as the 99th Fighter Squadron, which formed in January 1941 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Pilots in that unit were nicknamed the "Tuskegee Airmen." Medals which Gomer received will be on display in the exhibit.

Tuskegee airman Joseph "Joe" P. Gomer's medals are displayed at the Veterans Memorial Hall inside the St. Louis County Depot. (Photo courtesy of St. Louis County Historical Society)
Tuskegee airman Joseph "Joe" P. Gomer's medals are displayed at the Veterans Memorial Hall inside the St. Louis County Depot. (Photo courtesy of St. Louis County Historical Society)

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In the Fesler Gallery on the third floor of the Depot, a new exhibit on Harold "Bo" Conrad's national soapbox derby win will be on display.

In 1963, 12-year-old Conrad, from Duluth, won the Soapbox Derby National Championship in Akron, Ohio. Approximately 75,000 people watched Conrad race down the street at 40 mph in the final race, where he won by 4 inches. Conrad was the only Minnesotan to ever win the national championship.

One gallery, the Ojibwe Gallery on the fourth floor, is closed until further notice due to the Historical Society taking on a new curation project. Through a Legacy Grant, the Historical Society was able to hire three collections assistants to help catalog more than 80,000 artifacts in storage.

St. Louis County Historical Society collection assistant Lindsey Wood photographs an object to be be entered into the society's catalog records. (Photo courtesy of St. Louis County Depot)
St. Louis County Historical Society collection assistant Lindsey Wood photographs an object to be be entered into the society's catalog records. (Photo courtesy of St. Louis County Depot)

Under the direction of curator Natalie Walker, the assistants are photographing objects, creating or updating existing catalog records and implementing new policies to ensure the longevity of the collections.

Entrance into the Depot and Historical Society exhibits is free. Historical Society members can show their membership cards to gain free entrance to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum on the first floor as well, due to a reciprocal program between the two.