Whalan Museum curator Donna Novotny, center, raised her scissors in celebration following a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Whalan Town Hall’s Museum, which is located on the second story of the 1898-constructed and recently renovated building. Whalan Mayor Larry Johnson, far left, shared words on the town’s accomplishment at an appreciation lunch. BARB SCHRAMM/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
Whalan Museum curator Donna Novotny, center, raised her scissors in celebration following a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Whalan Town Hall’s Museum, which is located on the second story of the 1898-constructed and recently renovated building. Whalan Mayor Larry Johnson, far left, shared words on the town’s accomplishment at an appreciation lunch. BARB SCHRAMM/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
The story usually runs the same way. A relic from years past is rediscovered and prompts a reinvigoration of civic and historical pride. The town of Whalan has their own story of discovery and pride, and due to a committed populace and renovated town hall, the discoveries are just beginning to be made.

The Whalan Town Hall was built in 1898 and has been the town's gathering place for the past 115 years. The main floor saw many, many meetings held by the Whalan Legion and Auxiliary Post 637. Upstairs was the site of many dances and plays.

Whalan Museum curator Donna Novotny recalled many performances taking place on an old wooden stage there. For many years, a canvas curtain with many advertisements for local businesses had been drawn over the stage. At one point, the curtain had been removed, rolled up and put away. The rediscovery of the 23-foot-long curtain had spurred several local residents to create a museum in the town hall to display it once again.

The Whalan Museum was established in 2002 under the direction of the late Doris Peterson and with the curtain as its main focal point.

Before the museum moved in, the upstairs had been empty for decades, unused. Doris expressed ideas to have the upstairs remodeled, but it was clear the entire town hall needed to have some extensive renovation completed. In the winter of 2005, a soup supper was held at the town hall in conjunction with the annual candlelight ski event. The supper was a fundraiser for the Whalan Legion and Auxiliary Post 637 and the organizations expressed their interest in continuing to raise money for a future town hall renovation.

A committee was formed and secured approval from the city to move forward in renovation work on the building. The city and American Legion started a fund, which grew to over $50,000 over most of the decade. Work began on the town hall four years ago and was completed as funds allowed.

The building was moved from its original, crumbling foundation and a new concrete one was poured. The building also had plumbing installed, heating system, new windows, new flooring and walls and more. Helped from a Valspar grant, the building also received a complete exterior paint job. The upstairs was redone in conjunction with the entire building. As a result, the museum had been closed for two seasons. The recent open house on Sept. 28 celebrated the completion of that work and the re-opening of the museum.

"I think it is very prideful for the community," shared Novotny who noted that more historical items have been coming in since the renovation of the building. The museum counts among its artifacts old photographs, school-related equipment such as desks, military medals, the original seal of the Whalan State Bank, railroad lights from the early 1900s, Whalan maps and much more.

Novotny said she hopes to put together a historical board of directors who would take a lead role in discovering and preserving Whalan area history.

"This didn't happen overnight," she said, pointing out how long it had taken for the museum idea to come to fruition. She said there are plans to update the museum office with a computer as well as to create a museum website.

Anyone interested in being a volunteer for the Whalan Museum can contact Novotny at (507) 867-3746.

The Whalan Museum is open through the end of October on weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"I think it's a great building," Novotny said, "We're feeling pretty lucky now. We left the building better than we found it."