Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Nov. 15, 1999

Museum can only bring good to Waverly

By Irene Bender
Humphrey Museum Director

When Waverly is mentioned to people over 30, they most often say: "That's where Hubert Humphrey lived."

Others who drive through Waverly have noticed the Work Project Administration's Village Hall. The two would be an excellent example of a community development initiative.

Any developer or prospective business would look at a community's strengths, its history, and what it has to offer, and then develop it in a way that will encourage people from outside the community to come and support it.

As one looks at other communities that have re-invented themselves ­ such as Lansboro and Ely ­ you can see a goal and commitment by the people resulting in a thriving community.

What are the benefits of using history as an anchor in the community?

Dr. William Ferris, director of the National Endowment for the Humanities said: "The study of local, state, and regional history can indeed make us better neighbors ­ but it also makes us better citizens."

He was referencing our need to get more than simple sound bites from the TV or computer screen.

Historian Patricia Limerick recognized that regional identity provides the "cultural and social glue to put a fragmented society back together . . . we all share the same region and its history."

Imagine that the Humphrey Museum and Learning Center ­ an addition to our name ­ would host the Students Summit held across Minnesota recently. We could host regional agricultural symposiums (one exhibit theme for the museum is Food for Peace.) An educational outreach program would be developed for elementary, middle school and high school students. The exhibits will be interactive, using appropriate film for the age levels, include role playing in a partially re-constructed senate chamber.

Day trips from the metro area would be encouraged. We have already hosted bus tours. The senior population wants to see where Hubert Humphrey lived. Because we do not have a museum, we have included tours of the area churches. It was moving to see the pride of the members as they showed visitors their churches. Respondents to a museum survey to area attractions were eager to be included in package tours.

Destination visitors need food, gas, and lodging. When the Family Opinion Food Testing Company came to Waverly for our fund-raising project, their first question was: "Where can we get something to eat?"

The Department of Minnesota Tourism says that for every $1 directly spent on tourism, an additional $2.1 is generated in related services.

The museum in Waverly has already contributed to the economy in a small way. A museum is a business which has the same costs for operating expenses.

The lower level of the Village Hall would be used as classrooms, meeting spaces, and be available for rentals. A catering kitchen would be up to date. When we presented our plans to the Initiative Foundation, they expressed interest in using the meeting room when the project is completed.

It was my privilege to attend "Minnesota's Economic Mosaic" Development Conference on Oct. 21 and 22 in Minneapolis. The keynote speaker was Dorothy Bridges, president and CEO of Franklin National Bank of Minneapolis.

Bridges, a champion of economic development, spoke of the positive change in the Minneapolis neighborhood where the bank is located. Her cousin is Ruby Bridges, who made history in the '60s, as the first African-American to attend a white elementary school in Mississippi.

In 1948 a young politician from Minneapolis addressed the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia with the decision to take the civil rights fight to the floor, despite the risks involved.

His words were: . . . "There are those who say this issue of civil rights is an infringement on the states' rights. The time has arrived for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights."

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was finally passed. Norman Rockwell was inspired to paint "The Problem We All Live With," a small black girl in a white dress being escorted by four federal marshals into school. That story will be told at the Humphrey Museum and Learning Center in Waverly in the Civil Rights exhibit. Hubert Humphrey championed that cause for 16 years. Last year was the 50th anniversary of his "Walk into the Bright Sunshine" speech.

The session on "Blending of Arts and Economic Development" demonstrated the relationship of the arts to local development. The Paramount Theater in St. Cloud was restored, a $6.15 million project, through a joint effort of local, state, grants and private funds. The Hopkins Center for the Arts is another example of a public center which improved the city and serves as "people development."

The Humphrey Museum and Learning Center has the same potential for Waverly.

The project would be a catalyst for future development that would support the tax base of the community. The renovation/restoration of the Village Hall would again serve as a public gathering place.

Waverly has experienced some positive changes this past year. However, more needs to be done to make the community prosper.

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