By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN The Dassel Area Historical Society (DAHS) recently received a grant that will help it expand and complete a seed corn exhibit highlighting Dassel’s involvement in the production of seed corn.
The DAHS was awarded a Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage grant in the amount of $47,298 through the Minnesota Historical Society that will be used to elaborate on its current exhibit titled “Planting the Seed.”
Debuted as a temporary exhibit prior to the 2012 Red Rooster Days, “Planting the Seed” tells Dassel’s story and how in the late 1930s with the development of cold-hardy seed corn the town was known as the seed corn capital of the world, with most seed corn companies per capita.
According to a press release, preliminary work on the exhibit began in 2011, when the DAHS formed a committee to research and design an exhibit tracking the emergence of Dassel-area seed corn operations.
Former Dassel resident Kurt Greenley, who grew up working in breeding and test plots alongside his father Kermit, collected much of the photos and information used in the exhibit. He also provided assistance in the grant writing process, along with Mary Jane Arens, Mary Jensen, and Carolyn Holje.
The application came before an 11-member advisory committee of the state historical society, which then considered whether the exhibit promotes a historical understanding of the state’s history that will benefit the public.
The committee also considered whether the exhibit tells a compelling story and has enduring value to the community, and whether it meets the standards of accuracy, fairness, and honesty.
In addition, the committee considered the intended location of the exhibit, which is the third level of the Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum, and whether the environment was an adequate exhibit space.
The state historical society found Dassel’s seed corn story and exhibit to be one with “enduring value.”
“We think it’s a significant story, and we’re glad someone else does, too,” said Dassel History Center Director Carolyn Holje.
Once the DAHS is given permission to begin the project, the grant money will be used to hire a project manager to oversee the bidding process and overall project.
This will include hiring a substantive editor who will determine the best way to portray the story to various audiences.
A professional designer will also be hired to design high-quality, professional display units and cases, that will also be mobile so the exhibit can be moved and transported. This is also important so that the third level of the museum can continue to be used to host various events, including community theatre productions.
Greenley noted that the temporary exhibit is amateur in nature, compared to the more professional displays that will now be possible with the grant money.
The proposed exhibit is being referred to as an interpretive exhibit, Greenley noted, in that the exhibit will have different components, such as a media center.
Here, audiences can watch a Disney animated movie, “The Grain that Built the World,” tracing the history of corn and the importance it has had in different cultures around the world, beginning with the Mayan and Inca civilizations which worshiped corn.
The goal for the project is to have it completed by Red Rooster Days 2014.
“We’re anxious to get going on the final [exhibit],” Greenley said, adding that the committee will continue gathering articles, artifacts, and photos related to Dassel’s seed corn industry.