A gem! A treasure! A real class act! Those are terms that might aptly be applied to the Tama County Historical Society and Genealogical Library, located at 200 North Broadway Street in Toledo. A recent visitor to the historical complex, located in the 1870s county jail, was impressed to see the wide range of natural and historical artifacts on display and to learn about the outstanding resource the Historical Society is to county residents and to people from across Iowa and the nation. A walk through the museum offers a detailed account of the county's natural history, its native population, and its settlement by Europeans in the 19th century.
The building itself exists as a testament to the vision and resourcefulness of county residents. When the county jail was condemned in 1970, the Historical Society saw the opportunity to develop the space for use as an historical museum. In the mid-1990s, a large annex was added. Today it houses the research library as a place where visitors can review county newspapers, census records, immigrant ship passenger rosters, and legal records. Every issue of each county newspaper, from the 1850s to the present day, is maintained on microfilm. The Iowa census records from 1840 to 1930 are also available on microfilm. Obituaries of nearly every decedent in the past 150 years are maintained for historical research.
In order to access and fully utilize the microfilm records, the historical society must have good quality microfilm readers. The Society had two machines but one was reaching a point of obsolescence. Parts were no longer available, and maintenance was nearly impossible. With the help of a grant from the Tama County Community Foundation (TCCF), an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, the Historical Society was able to purchase a new microfilm reader in 2011. Another grant, in the current funding year, enabled the purchase of a computer and printer to be linked to the machine, so that now images can be downloaded and kept electronically, or pages can be printed as a permanent record.
Joyce Wiese, chairperson of the Historical Society, is shown using the microfilm reader at the Tama County Historical Museum in Toledo.
Joyce Wiese, Chair of the Historical Society, is generous in her praise of this new equipment. She personally uses the microfilm reader each week to find the 25, 50, 75 and 100 year historical notes that are passed along to the Tama County newspapers. She also notes that the machines are used multiple times each day by individuals who are doing genealogy research in the county. Having efficient, smoothly operating equipment is a necessity for the goodwill of visitors who stop at the museum and Genealogical Library to conduct research.
The Historical Society and Genealogical Library operates entirely with volunteer support. Nine volunteers make up the governing board of directors. Additional volunteers are always needed as docents, as the museum and library are open to visitors from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday thru Saturday, each week. Like many of the volunteers, Wiese got involved after retiring from business several years ago. She finds her involvement with the Historical Society and Genealogical Library to be one of those things that "really matters" in life!
In a similar way, Wiese describes the grants from the Tama County Community Foundation as being really essential in helping meet critical needs. When an organization relies on volunteers, modest membership fees, donations, and an occasional bequest for its ongoing support, the grants received from the TCCF have "really helped take the edge off" these special needs.
The TCCF is able to assist 501(c)3 charitable organizations, schools, and governmental organizations with grant funding to support needed programs and important projects in Tama County. Assisting with technology needs at the Tama County Historical Society and Genealogical Library is an excellent example of such a project.
The TCCF has been created by and for the people of Tama County. The Foundation's main goals are to support charitable projects and programs, to attract additional funds, and to assist donors in creating lasting legacies through a variety of giving options within the county.
For more information about the TCCF, contact that Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa at (319) 287-9106, or Rick Krug, Chair of the Tama County Community Foundation, at (319) 478-2148.