MARILYN HAGERTY: Bring history into the future
As the last snowdrift shrinks from the grounds of the Myra Museum, director Leah Byzewski looks ahead to summer.
She’s thinking of new displays in the Myra Museum. And looking for what she calls more modern ways of presenting history.
Last week, Byzewski was dealing with water too close to the gas station — the newest six historical buildings on the grounds of the Grand Forks Historical Society. The Myra Museum is in need of refurbishing. And with the 21-member board, Byzewski is engaged in conversation over how to raise funds.
When the Myra Museum was built in 1976, it was a dream come true for people interested in preserving local history. With 300 members in the Grand Forks Historical Society, there is an ongoing quest for more members. There is a craft guild that meets Wednesday mornings and holds sales to benefit the museum.
The museum sits in an area with a string of historical buildings surrounding the Myra Gazebo. They include the Campbell House, the original Grand Forks post office, Blooming school, Myra carriage house, a 1950s Lustron home and an old-time gas station.
With occasional light Sunday afternoon lectures called “Entertaining History,” the Myra Museum offers events throughout the winter. Traditions of summer soon will be blossoming all over the grounds. The Grand Forks City Band presents concerts every other Thursday. There are weddings. More now in August than June. There’s a car show late in the season. And Halloween comes alive for young children and older people in October.
Local historians who have been featured on Sunday afternoons include Gordon Iseminger who spoke on the All American Turkey Show that used to be a major event in Grand Forks.
Ken Dawes, another local historian, is scheduled to speak on April 27. His subject will be the Ku Klux Klan in Grand Forks.
May brings on a parade of elementary school children for tours. Along with several classes from city schools, there are groups that have come visiting from nearby Crookston, Grafton, Central Valley, Larimore and Sacred Heart in East Grand Forks.
Byzewski is ready and willing to show and tell the history of Grand Forks County. She does it with volunteer help from Bonnie Cameron, known as “the story lady,” and her part-time assistant Amber Bouret.
Byzewski, who majored in history at UND, succeeded the late Ted Jelliff as director of the museum.
She seems tireless in her work that includes historical knowledge as well as a need to oversee care of the nitty-gritty on the grounds.
At the same time, she enjoys helping to tell the history of Grand Forks and the county.
She thinks the early people here envisioned Grand Forks to be a great city. She cites the building of the Metropolitan Opera House, the establishment of the University before statehood. She points to long-time clubs such as Thursday Music and the Franklin Club.
“They saw opportunity here and they made it happen,” she said. “The value of education and culture has been most important since the beginning of Grand Forks.”
As the days grow longer, she works with displays and continues her quest for more timely ways to present history. She hopes for improvements now to carry the Myra Museum into the future.