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Our Story

From our beginnings with a Fourth of July pageant, to the immersive Museum and extensive archive we have today, the Ely-Winton Historical Society has served the area in some shape or form for over 60 years.

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In 1958 the Minnesota State Centennial was celebrated in Ely with the local Music and Drama Club staging a pageant on the Fourth of July.  "This is Your Life, Ely" was directed by Florence Peterson and Elizabeth Gjervik.  A tableau of dances, songs, skits, and orchestral pieces celebrated Ely's history, beginning with the early Native Americans.  An awareness was born that it was time to start formally preserving and recording the history of the town.

In 1961, the Ely-Winton Historical Society formally organized, with a handful of people meeting in the Community Center.  Its "museum" for many years afterward was a single display case in the lobby of the historic city landmark.  William Trygg, pictured to the right, was the first president of the EWHS

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In 1980, a golden opportunity presented itself while Ralph Doty, pictured to the left, was Provost of Vermilion Community College.  He had a vision of a Fina Arts addition to the college. At the same time, William Trygg had established an impressive collection of historical artifacts that needed a home.  Together, they lobbied for funding for both the Fine Arts addition and the historical society office and museum.

The museum opened in 1981.  Everett Laitala, an engineering professor pictured to the right, spent many years tweaking the new exhibits.  While much focuses on logging, mining, and the Boundary Waters, the emphasis has always been first on the people of Ely: Native Americans, explorers and adventurers, entrepreneurs, and immigrants.

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