As the Deerfield Historical Society continues its search for new officers, members have voted to push off elections for a month and to start a membership drive.
About thirty people piled into a Deerfield Public Library meeting room on Nov. 4, about 15 of them members, in the hopes of electing new leaders. Without new blood, the organization could dissolve completely.
Two board members, Dorothy Loftus and Dick Berge, passed away this year, leaving the offices of president and treasurer vacant. While the current vice president, Sandy Gilbertson and secretary, Beverly Dahl, offered to stay on the board short-term,
they don’t plan on staying forever.
“Running a historical society takes a lot more than two people, so the fact that it’s still there, high five man,” said Dana Kelly, who grew up in Deerfield and serves on the board of the Koshkonong Prairie Historical Society. “You have to have events, you have to be participating in events like the craft fair. You have to do that.”
Early in the meeting, Deerfield resident Dave Lemke reminded attendees that only members of the historical society can vote in elections and hold office. To become a member, Gilbertson said, people must pay dues, which are $5 a year or $50 for life.
Audience members asked if they could join the society, pay their dues and vote on the spot Monday night. Gilbertson replied that the deadline for joining, and being able to vote, was Sunday, Nov. 3.
That news didn’t sit well with some attendees.
“You tell us to come here, so we come here, and now you’re saying ‘well you can join but you can’t vote,’” tonight, said Dennis Haberkorn.
“You’ve got all these people here that aren’t members, that want to be involved,” said society member Paul Haag. “We vote tonight, you turn them off, you lose them, you’re pretty much defeating the purpose of the whole thing.”
“Another idea, I think you should entertain would be, table your officer votes, do a 30-day membership drive,” Haag offered.
After a failed vote to move forward with nominating officers on Nov. 4, members decided to give people a chance to join before electing new leaders. They’ll be collecting applications until December. People can turn in materials at the Deerfield Public Library.
“It’s a fair way,” Gilbertson said.
The ideas for keeping the group afloat flew fast and loose, and the discussion dissolved into side conversations more than once.
Some ideas included creating social media accounts, keeping in touch via email, using the local cable channel, forming committees, training new members on the collection, staying open during community events and giving tours to prospective members.
“The information is important, Facebook is huge, sharing, talking, but I also think there has to be future growth. If we’re going to do it, we have to have an open mind and change,” one visitor said.
After the Oct. 16 meeting when elections were originally scheduled, Kelly suggested trying to merge with the Koshkonong Prairie Historical Society, a non-profit in Cambridge studying the history of the prairie.
On Monday night, members decided they didn’t want to move forward with that idea because they didn’t want the museum, or its collections, to physically move out of Deerfield.
Kelly responded that the museum wouldn’t have to relocate to join the collective, but the idea was never revisited.
The Deerfield Historical Society will reconvene on Monday, Dec. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the Deerfield Community Center, in the hopes of finally electing its officers.