New director starts at Historical Society

Published 10:38 am Friday, June 27, 2014

John Haymond is the new Mower County Historical Center executive director.  Jenae Peterson/

John Haymond is the new Mower County Historical Center executive director.
Jenae Peterson/

John Haymond was thrilled to start working with history on a regular basis.

Haymond always wanted to work in a historical society, specifically in Minnesota. So he was excited when he saw the job posting for executive director of the Mower County Historical Society one day before it closed. He applied, got the job and started on June 16.

“I am a big believer in historical societies,” Haymond said. “As a professional historian I’ve done a lot of research in Minnesota historical societies, and I’ve always wanted to work with one and in one.”

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Haymond was especially excited to work with a rural county historical society, because of the enormous room for growth and vast potential.

“Mower County, in general, has an amazing amount of history,” Haymond said.

His new position includes overseeing the day to day operations of the historical society, working with the onsite curator to maintain and preserve the collection, reviewing items that people would like to donate, doing research, reporting to the board, and maintaining the budget.

“This is the kind of job where you can definitely get into it and start doing some longterm planning and longterm goals,” Haymond said.

Haymond took over for former Executive Director Dustin Heckman, who left in March to take the same job in Goodhue County.

Curator Jaimie Timm filled in as interim director. Although she was happy to fill in, Timm was glad when Haymond took over the position, preferring the more creative work at the historical society.

“We are so glad that he is here,” Timm said. “[He is] already picking stuff up super fast. It’s always better to have three people fighting for the Historical Society than just one or two, so we’re really excited.”

Timm is excited for what the future holds.

“We’ve got a lot up our sleeve for the next couple of months,” she said. “It’s going to be busy and exciting, we’re gonna try some new things, keep some of the old favorites and hopefully people like it.”

‘It’s adopted me’

Haymond grew up in South Asia and lived in Hawaii and Florida, he received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and he and his wife lived in Scotland for two years while they attended graduate school.

Despite being well traveled, Haymond does not foresee leaving Minnesota anytime soon. Haymond and his family live in Prior Lake.

“Either I’ve adopted the state or it’s adopted me; I’m not sure which but it’s a good fit,” Haymond said.

Haymond served in the military for 21 years as an infantry man and paratrooper, spending his last few years as a recruiter in Duluth. But his passion has always been history.

“I think being in the military probably had a lot to do with it,” Haymond said. “After participating in or seeing history made a lot I figured I might as well just start taking another, professional interest in it.”

Haymond worked as the property manager for the U.S. Army’s Calvary Museum in Fort Riley, Kan., and spent two years as the military history consultant with the National Museum of Scotland. He also used to volunteer as a military collection specialist with the St. Louis County Historical Society when he was in Duluth, helping identify uniforms, insignia, badges and other military items in their collection.

Yet wherever he worked, he has always loved history.

“Everybody has this idea that history is something that happened a long time ago, and the reality is that today is tomorrow’s history. So history is something that’s happening anew all the time,” Haymond said. “And history is really the story of the human experience, with all its tragedies and excitements and disasters, and everything that makes life.”

New exhibits

One big responsibility Haymond has taken on is working through the Historical Society’s collections and deciding what to keep and what to find a new home for, a job that he does not take lightly.

“It has to be a careful, thought out process,” Haymond said. “The items that we’re going to retain, we have to be able to show how they relate to Mower County.”

Because of limited size, space and staff, the Historical Society cannot keep everything they currently have in their collection. The historical society has been working on a deaccessioning project to remove some items from the historical society to make space for new material.

One example was the American Indian collection the Mower County Historical Society had on exhibit for years. Since there was no real connection to Mower County, or even Southern Minnesota, staff recently decided it was time to pass it on.

But the Historical Society doesn’t simply throw out old exhibits. If any of the items were on loan, they hand them back to their original owners. After that, they try to find a more fitting home for items, such as counties that do have a connection.

“If it can’t benefit us, we try to identify someone whom it can benefit,” Haymond said.

Although it can be sad seeing some of the exhibits leave Austin, it also makes room for new exhibits. The new World War II exhibit, which opens next Wednesday will showcase artifacts and photographs. This is taking the place of the military exhibit in the Headquarters Building. Staff spent a few months professionally curating and designing the exhibit and are excited to finally put it on display.

Haymond is also excited for another project the staff is looking into: a photographic exhibit on farms that have been in the community for about 100 years. They hope to get the community involved, gathering photographs and information on the farms.

But currently, staff is working on reorganizing their collection so visitors are able to view everything.

“Hopefully by fair time we’ll have things pretty much shaken out,” Haymond said.

Haymond is looking forward to the Mower County Fair, which usually attracts about 30,000 people. Since it is one of the Historical Society’s biggest weeks of the year, Haymond and his crew are looking for volunteers. Haymond also encourages community members to share ideas or questions they may have about any particular collection. For more information, call 507-437-6082 or email