By Rebecca Ebnet-Mavencamp
A new experience for the Anoka County Historical Society this year is a fundraising dinner series. Recognizing that the gifts of ACHS staff lay much more firmly in entertaining multiple, small groups and building relationships than in working a room full of 300 people once per year, we are setting aside the idea of a single fundraising dinner in favor of monthly events at the history center for 20 people.
These fun and inspirational, catered dinners will focus on a topic and project of ACHS, sponsored by a business or individual. Each event will include private gallery hall and behind the scenes tours, a surprise artifact reveal, games, meal, and an ask of support.
ACHS staff believes in the power of personal connection. We believe in the strength of small groups, in the intimacy that comes from people inviting people to an activity they care about. We acknowledge the benefits of a large dinner or event; however, we like the idea of having smaller events throughout the year using the museum as a location, thus better meeting our mission of enticing people to visit. We can do smaller scale publicity if one or two enthusiastic donors and supporters like you step up for each dinner and volunteer to invite friends to spend a fun evening. We can better use our volunteer force for these shorter lengths of time. We can show off our collection, help people to understand the museum because they’re in it, and have a more fun, intimate relationship with them than in a large dinner setting. If friends like you start thinking big, we could even turn a dinner into a family reunion or employee appreciation evening.
We are interested in people’s stories. Every artifact, every manuscript, every diary … it’s held at ACHS for the story. We need to convey the idea to the public that the preservation of quilts, dresses, stereos etc. are vital for the future not just because of the 3D item itself being rare or significant, but because of the story connected to it. People connect to the story. We can find empathy in our public by telling stories and letting them know we are working with other organizations to tell their story. Who knows that we have had conversations with area businesses about managing their corporate collections? Who knows we have visited Stepping Stone Emergency Housing to play historic games and encourage the residents to write their stories down? Who knows that research suggests journaling and having the feeling of being heard is critical to healing from rape, domestic abuse, chemical abuse, or a broken home? Who knows that people who spend time studying history have a better understanding of current events and the ramifications of any decision made by any size governmental body?
We need to have more of the public connect ACHS with their daily lives. Do you think of the History Center when you’re faced with children battling cancer or empty food shelves? You should. That emotional connection with the social causes you champion in other organizations fits here – because we keep the stories of those challenges. Behind the intricacies of building an exhibit, finding money to pay that $500 per month electric bill, or preserving the collection, lay stories of ordinary humans, extraordinary circumstances, and the legacy that unites us all.
Rebecca Ebnet-Mavencamp is the executive director of the Anoka County Historical Society.