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Historical Society will not open on Friday

T-R file photo — Michelle Roseburrough, the administrator of the Historical Society of Marshall County, has had more time to go through collections since the pandemic began and events have been canceled.

The Historical Society of Marshall County will not be opening any sites yet, even though Gov. Kim Reynolds said museums are free to open with restrictions on Friday.

The Wednesday announcement prompted Michelle Roseburrough, the administrator of the society, to issue a statement saying sites and materials are not able to be sanitized properly without damaging them.

“The problem is how to make the sites safe for people who visit while protecting staff and volunteers,” she said. “Smaller historical societies and historical homes are impossible to sanitize without damage.”

Reopening the sites — the Mowry Irvine Mansion, the Glick-Sower Historical Homestead, Taylor No. 4 Country School and the Matthew Edel Blacksmith Shop in Haverhill — will be considered on a “month-by-month” basis.

Roseburrough said she has a weekly Zoom meeting with the Iowa Museum Association and has found that other historical organizations are facing similar problems. For example, she said some Iowa museums will remain closed for the rest of the year, and her colleagues are also struggling with how to properly clean.

T-R FILE PHOTO — Sites operated by the Historical Society of Marshall County will not open on Friday. Gov. Kim Reynolds said museums are free to open on Friday with restrictions, but there are concerns about cleaning artifacts without damaging them.

“That is a question that is always asked — ‘Anyone find a way to do this without destroying stuff?'” Roseburrough said, laughing.

Even visitors arriving with sanitizer on their hands leave residue, she said.

Roseburrough said visitors could wear gloves, but the question remains who should supply them? The visitors or the society? She said the organization operates on a very tight budget, depending primarily on events and donations.

Many events hosted at the sites have been canceled or rescheduled.

“We had a bunch of different events scheduled,” Roseburrough said. “We usually get class reunions in July and they are rescheduling them to 2021.”

The anxiety about the economic climate has also impacted donations to the Historical Society of Marshall County.

“We exist on donations, grants and the ability to hold events,” she said. “The future is uncertain. We should be fine, but hard decisions may have to be made about where we allocate our funds.”

With fewer visitors, Roseburrough has been able to devote some time to collection care and other projects that normally she would not have time for.

The society is also taking the time to ramp up its online presence. She said video tours of sites and collections are being prepared and will soon be available on YouTube. Roseburrough said particular artifacts will be highlighted in the virtual tours.

“That is what we have to do for a while,” she said.

Roseburrough said she will also be available via phone or email to help people with research.

The absence of visitors has been a change for Roseburrough.

“I am a staff of one so I go there every day but what I really love about my job is the community engagement,” she said. “It has been very lonely. I am surprised how stressful it is – being in this big, old place all by myself and facing the uncertainty.”

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Contact Lana Bradstream at lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

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