State donates to repair flood-damaged history

ADAMS TOWNSHIP — Water and artifacts are two materials that should not mix, but the June 17 flood brought damaging liquid and sediment to the Houghton County Historical Society and the Copper Range Historical Society.

In response, the Historical Society of Michigan raised $10,000 in GoFundMe donations for the organizations to aid the recovery process. The Houghton County Historical Society, which had its storage building flooded, received $8,000, while $2,000 went to the Copper Range Historical Society (CRHS), where three feet of water and sediment filled the storage basement.

The donations to aid in the recovery process came from all over the state and country.

“This is the first time we’ve tried to address a need in this way,” said Historical Society of Michigan Executive Director Larry Wagenaar. “We hope on occasion to do it again. We have to be careful, because we can’t respond to every difficulty that arises, but this was overwhelming in the damage.”

The Houghton County Historical Society caught the board’s attention first when photos of mud, rocks and damaged artifacts were revealed. From there the nonprofit decided to pitch in, using social media to gather donations.

The Houghton County Historical Society was able to get quick help initially but the long-term recovery effort will take more, perhaps up to $100,000 to $200,000 in damage, Wagenaar said.

“Now they have a long-term recovery effort, which is going to take much more funding than we were able to provide, but at least it’s a start, and hopefully other folks and companies and regional players will be able to provide some support,” he said.

Quick action is key when dealing with water damage.

“If you don’t jump on the remediation of that (flooding) quickly, like freeze-drying your paper artifacts, they’ll start getting mold and rot very quickly, and that will destroy them,” he explained.

The funding was proportional to the damage both organizations received.

At the Copper Range Historical Society, the destroyed materials were cleaned out by student volunteers from Michigan Tech sent by the Volunteer Resource Center. Some materials were salvaged, but mold concerns made many unusable.

“We’ve thrown a lot away, but we are keeping some things, and we’ve had most of them cleaned,” said CRHS Board President Jean Pemberton.

The biggest problem was the destroyed furnace, a $3,800 repair for the small society, she said.