What will happen to the endangered archival collection in the Iron Range Research Center (IRRC) on the campus of the Minnesota Discovery Center (MDC), formerly known as Ironworld Discovery Center? The fate of the archives, which opened in 1980, is up in the air because of the closing of the center in the fall of 2009, due to funding cutbacks.
The center’s collections contain thousands of cubic feet of unpublished materials including government records, personal records, church records, and records of numerous business, civic, and social organizations. They include the papers of former governor Rudy Perpich, mining company newsletters, maps, photographs – many very rare, oral histories, and microfilmed newspapers. According to Barbara Sommer, whose book, Hard Work and a Good Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Minnesota, based in part on research in IRRC collections, won a 2009 Minnesota Book Award and a 2009 Northeastern Minnesota Book Award:
Its [IRRC] collections contain archival materials that cannot be found elsewhere. . . . They represent “stunning examples” of materials documenting “people’s history” of 20th century America and Minnesota. As a former historical organization director, I know the task of preserving the materials and making them accessible … is not easy. But I also know we in Minnesota are proud of our history and supportive of protecting it.
The Ironworld Development Corporation (IDC) manages and operates the Minnesota Discovery Center, including the Iron Range Research Center. This is done under a contract with Iron Range Resources, a state economic development agency with funding from a taconite production tax. Rick Puhek, IDC Board chair, stated in a February 11, 2010, press release the Board remains committed to re-opening the Minnesota Discovery Center.
Aaron J. Brown, author of Overburden, Modern Life on the Iron Range, wrote on his MinnesotaBrown.com blog on December 14, 2009, the Iron Range Resources Board had approved a $450,000 expenditure to the Minnesota Discovery Center “to pay some bills, do an audit of the operation, heat the buildings, secure its historical documents, and also to reopen the facility to those who want to use its vast collection of area research data.” For more information from Brown, see his MinnesotaBrown.com blog. To date, although the audit has been completed, the Iron Range Research Center remains closed.
Researchers hope a sustainable operating plan for the Minnesota Discovery Center would include preserving, protecting, and maintaining IRRC collections intact and housed permanently on the Iron Range, continuing the Center’s purpose as a repository for materials documenting Minnesota’s Iron Ranges. If you would like to add your support for maintaining the IRRC collections intact and housed permanently on the Iron Range, contact:
Sandy Layman, Commissioner
Iron Range Resources
P.O. Box 441
4261 Highway 53 South
Eveleth, Minnesota 55734-0441
Senator David J. Tomassoni- DFL, District 05
Rep. Tom Rukavina – DFL, District 05A
Rep. Anthony “Tony” Sertich – DFL, District 05B