Westonka Historical Society looks for change

By Blaze Fugina Community Editor

The Westonka Historical Society is looking to the community for ways to increase the amount of funding it has and move into a larger space in the Mound area.

The historical society currently makes its home in a portion of the Threshold Building, located on Commerce Boulevard in Mound. Pam Myers, the president of the Westonka Historical Society, said that the space they operate is too small, and the money they make through dues and merchandise is not enough to cover rent.

"Right now we are paying $400 per month in rent, and we’re not making that in sales and membership," she said. "We don’t even have $400 per month to put into wherever we move in to."

The Westonka Historical Society’s collection includes Tonka Toys memorabilia, Andrews Sisters artifacts, old school mementos and other Mound items.

The possible relocation sites that the historical society has visited in the past few years includes the old Langdon Bay Trading Post, a former cafeteria site in the old Tonka Toys factory, the old Mound VFW building and the old Westonka Area Chamber of Commerce building. The Westonka Historical Society said that most of the sites they visited were too expensive and needed pricey renovations to make them usable.

One difference between other area historical societies and the Westonka Historical Society is the amount of help they are receiving from the city. Mound resident Tom Rockvam said the Westonka Historical Society is one of a few in the area that is not getting a location or funding donated by a city.

"Most historical societies, the reason they are still going today is because the city has given them space," said Rockvam. "You can raise money enough to buy something, but that is just the beginning."

Rockvam added that most historical societies need the help from the city in order to survive. If the Westonka Historical Society were to purchase a building, they would need more funding to help keep up with bills and repairs.

"Historical societies are becoming a diminishing breed," he said. "So in order to survive they need the help of the city, basically."

The historical society did add that the city is currently providing two small rooms for storage in the Mound City Hall building.

Regardless of where the historical society would move to, the historical society said the need to increase revenue is essential to continue operating.

"Would it make sense to do a fundraiser if we don’t have a glimmer of where the location would be?" asked Myers. "Or do we need to (first) find a place?"

The historical society has also considered whether disbanding is an option as well. If there is not enough interest in the Mound area, then Rockvam said the historical society could be fighting a losing battle.

"We might be in a situation with the diminishing interest … is it going to go by the wayside?" he asked. "The bottom line is we’re looking to see if the city and the people of Mound have enough interest in keeping the historical society (and museum) going."

If the historical society can find enough support, then they think they can find a way to continue operating. Westonka Historical Society Board Member Carol Senn said a change in philosophy could help spark new interest.

"We have to get the town excited about ‘what is a historical museum?’" she said. "’What can we do for you?’ Maybe we need to approach that more."

If the Westonka Historical Society were to disband, they would need to find other local historical societies to take their artifacts. One of the closest and largest museums is the Long Lake Historical Society.

"Potentially, different ones of them may be interested in different things," said Myers about other area historical societies. "Who would want Tonka if Mound is the home of Tonka?"

With such a rich history in Mound, the Westonka Historical Society members said they believe their collection should stay at home.

"We were given the Andrews sisters stuff under the assumption that this is the second home of the Andrews sisters," said Senn. "The same way with the Tonka Toys former employee, who is giving us the Tonka material. It belongs in Mound."

The Westonka Historical Society asks anyone who has ideas or solutions to contact their voicemail at 952-472-9800, and a board member will return the call.