New Chippewa Falls museum set to open Friday

Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 10:09 PM CST
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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -Making community history more accessible to all. That’s the goal of a group of Chippewa Valley volunteers.

After years of work, that goal will soon become a reality.

Inside this building designed to resemble a saw mill that once stood in Chippewa Falls an army of volunteers are at work. They’re adding some finishing touches to the Chippewa Area History Center. It’s a project that’s been years in the making.

“We’ve been raising money for five or six years and building during the pandemic for about two, and that’s gone sort of miraculously quickly,” said Frank Smoot, the museum’s developer. “The whole community has been extraordinary in their support.”

Smoot said the Chippewa County Historical Society dreamed of a space where it could easily it display its artifacts with more accessibility for all community members. For Smoot, they are the ones that make the museum.

“You go in some museums, and they go from the beginning of the story clear on up to sort of near the present, but here we want to involve people in telling their own stories,” Smoot said.

That mission makes them unique.

“A lot of times you go into a museum, and it looks like it’s done,” Smoot said. “It looks like it’s been done for quite a while, but here, every time you walk in the door there’ll be someone up on a ladder doing a thing. I hope people really attach to that this is a place that’s not a dusty cold place full of old things. This is a place the community is making and remaking and remaking.”

Among the exhibits you’ll find a fire truck that once served the Chippewa Falls community or a photo showing a Chippewa County tie to the space race.

One of the things bringing it all together is this one simple mantra: “It’s three words, but we really mean it: What’s your story? Come in and tell us your story,” Smoot said.

That’s why Smoot said no visit to the center will be the same.

The museum’s soft opening is this Friday. Community members can check it out from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. The cost is $6 for adults and $3 for children.