UMD, historical society take teamwork approach

A compromise will put the region's historical center in the hands of the University of Minnesota Duluth, while still under the oversight of a broad-based advisory board.

A compromise will put the region's historical center in the hands of the University of Minnesota Duluth, while still under the oversight of a broad-based advisory board.

Who should pay the salary of the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center's director has been the source of conflict on the St. Louis County Historical Society board. Some members had feared that giving the center over to UMD would be abdicating their responsibility for the valuable archives.

But the county and state historical societies and UMD came to an agreement effective this week, shifting payment for the salary of Pat Maus, the center's only archivist, to UMD. The St. Louis County Historical Society staff proposed the shift as a cost-saving measure.

Concerns about putting the center's operations under UMD's control were overcome, said Bob Mars, president of the St. Louis County Historical Society.

"It was an almost-unanimous vote to do what we're doing," he said. "The contract is a partnership. It doesn't cede all the decision-making to the university or the state historical society."


He said the $34,000 the county historical society paid Maus will go toward improving the work of the society. "It makes a difference in our budget," he said.

Mostly, Mars just wants people to use the center.

"Education, history; if you don't know where you've been, you don't know where you're going," he said. "It's important kids understand who made this county what it is."

The compromise created an advisory board that will include two members from UMD, two members from the historical society, one from the Minnesota Historical Society and two members at large. Directors from the center, the library, the historical center and the dean of the university's college of liberal arts also will serve as members.

The advisory board will advocate for the center and will be composed of specialists and scholars with knowledge of archiving.

The center -- stocked with documents and photographs important to the region -- was the last of its kind in the state to be paid for by both a county historical society and the university where it is housed, according to UMD Library Director Bill Sozanksy.

But because the society was struggling to pay its share, "we're sort of stepping up to the plate to make sure the center stays open and available to the public," he said.

UMD wants to actively work with the historical society, which won't be cut out of anything, Sozansky said.


St. Louis County retains ownership of its collections, said JoAnne Coombe, executive director of the St. Louis County Historical Society, whose archives have been housed by UMD since 1976.

"We remain partners though a new advisory committee in addition to a signed legal agreement," she said. "It's a transition from the method in which the employee was paid and supervised."

The idea was proposed by the county historical society years ago in light of decreasing county support for its operations, Coombe said.

Those who use the center won't see any changes, Maus said. She will take on some UMD library duties, and the day-to-day operations of the center will be run by UMD, but "the administrative structure is in keeping with the typical model now," she said.

Her salary falls in the range of $35,000 to $40,000, Sozanksy said.

JANA HOLLINGSWORTH is a general assignment reporter. She can be reached Tuesdays through Saturdays at (218) 279-5501 or by e-mail at .

What To Read Next
Get Local