History trunks offer a unique glance into different eras

The Wright County Historical Society’s historical-era trunk education program remains a popular hands-on teaching tool in many classrooms around the county.
Sally Stevens is the society’s business manager. She said the theme-based trunks are in high demand during the school year. During the summer, the society’s Minnesota Fur Trade and Civil War trunks make the rounds of area nursing homes. “We have six slots available in the fall, and they are all filled,” Stevens said. “Our goal with this and all our programs is providing another resource to the community.  Many times, when a teacher gets a trunk in their school, the other teachers ask to use it over an extended period. Probably half of our trunk loans ending up being two or three weeks long. We always try to accommodate such requests unless someone has reserved that trunk.”
Last month, Monticello Middle School teacher Judy Otterson made such a request with one of the society’s fur trade trunks so other teachers could use it in their classes.
The Minnesota Fur Trade trunk include the following: twist tobacco, seed beads,  bone pipe beads, tin box with strike and flint, a “Making Fire with Flint and Steel” booklet, a horn spoon, a miniature birch bark canoe replica, authentic Native American harvested wild rice, musket balls and buckshot and tanned buckskin, muskrat and rabbit furs.
The Civil War-era trunk includes a kepi, or cap, 1864 playing cards, a soldier’s sewing kit, a tin cup and haversack, coffee pouch and a state sesquicentennial study guide.
The WCHS Trunk Program began in 2009 after economic constraints in many area schools literally stopped field trips to the Wright County Heritage Center, Stevens said.
trunks after attending a Minnesota Historical Society workshop about the state’s fur trade.  WCHS now has two series of trunks (with three trunks in each set) that showcase the Minnesota Fur Trade and the Civil War.  Both sets focus on the topic and how it relates back to people and events within Wright County. A third series of trunks featuring an Ellis Island and immigration theme will be launched early this fall.
Each May and August, WCHS sends postcards to schools reminding teachers to schedule their trunk usage throughout our online form at www.wrighthistory.org, she said.
Teachers may pick up their requested trunk during the designated week after 8 a.m. Mondays and are asked to return the trunk by 4:30 p.m. on Fridays, Stevens said.
“Each trunk is valued at between $200 to $300 depending on the theme” she said. The service is free of charge, but the receiving school or organization is responsible for damage incurred during borrowing.  The trunks are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Wright County Heritage Center, 2001 Highway 25 N. in Buffalo.
While scheduling consideration is first given to Wright County schools, Stevens said any organization is welcome and encouraged to borrow a trunk, The WCHS has shared trunks with other school districts, as well as nursing homes, home schools, scouting groups and church youth groups.  If you are interested in scheduling a trunk for use please fill out the online form at www.wrighthistory.org or call 763-682-7323 for more information. The WCHS asks prospective trunk users to suggest a second date.

Contact Managing Editor Tim Hennagir at [email protected]