During the Morrison County Historical Society’s annual meeting of members on September 8, 2018, the organization announced its new Director Emeritus program. It also named Jan Warner as its first honoree receiving the title.
MCHS’s Director Emeritus program is meant to confer the title on individuals who have served the organization with distinction by considering the following three questions:
1) Would this organization have existed in its current form without this person?
2) Has this individual created a legacy that will last for years or even decades?
3) Is this someone whose contribution is so great that you hope others will aspire to meet this standard?
Jan met these criteria through over 50 years of service to MCHS.
Jan Warner joined MCHS in 1962 with her husband Art. The two of them wanted to be involved in a community activity together. At the time, MCHS, which was housed in the basement of the Historic Morrison County Courthouse, had become inactive and efforts were made by the Minnesota Historical Society to revitalize it. Jan and Art quickly became an important part of these efforts.
A lack of space at the Courthouse had the Morrison County Historical Society seeking a new home. Through the late-1960s to early-1970s, Jan was part of the Design Committee to design and build a new museum, searching for a proper location and working with the architect, Foster Dunwiddie, and the museum’s donors, Bob and Sarah Maud Sivertsen and Carl Weyerhaeuser, as The Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum was constructed. She helped design the museum’s main exhibits, writing labels to tell the story of Morrison County. The museum opened in August 1975.
Jan’s work at the museum included giving countless tours and presentations, organizing and managing collections, curating exhibits, managing staff and volunteers, writing history and producing a newsletter.
She was also heavily involved with preservation projects throughout the community, including the Cass Gilbert Depot, the Buckman Hotel, the Hennepin Paper Mill Site, and the Historic Morrison County Courthouse. She wrote the successful National Register nomination for the Courthouse. She also helped form the Little Falls Heritage Preservation Commission. In addition, she worked closely with archaeologist Doug Birk on documenting the Little Elk Heritage Preserve.
Through her dedication to running a museum using professional standards and a desire to improve the museum field throughout Minnesota, she served on many state and local boards and committees, including the Central Minnesota Historical Assembly, State Bicentennial Heritage Commission, Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, Institute for Minnesota Archaeology, Great River/Great People, Musser Weyerhaeuser Task Force, and Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums, among others. She was a founding member of many of these groups and helped raise MCHS’s visibility within the state.
Though not formally named executive director until 1977, Jan served in that capacity for the organization almost from the beginning, retiring in 2015 after over 50 years of service, much of that time on a volunteer basis.
MCHS Vice President Pat Quinn presented Jan Warner with the honor.
This article originally appeared in the Morrison County Historical Society newsletter, Vol. 31, No. 4, 2018.