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About Us

collect. preserve. share.

The mission of Beltrami County Historical Society is to collect, preserve, and share the history of the people, land, and stories of Beltrami County to honor our past, to understand our present, and to build our future.


Our HIStory

At 8 p.m., on January 26, 1952, a group of men and women met at the home of Harold Searls, 1023 Minnesota Avenue, Bemidji, to form a county historical society. This group included local housewives, business owners, a college professor, and physician, Dr. Charles Vandersluis, who had already developed a large collection of interviews and photographs from the early settlers of Beltrami County. These people, realizing the importance of preserving history for future generations, elected Harold D. Searls as president, decided to have monthly meetings, and form a corporation, at a later date.

On November 9, 1952, the Beltrami County Historical Society was founded as a non-profit corporation to serve residents of Beltrami County. Articles of Incorporation were adopted with eight articles. After more than ten years of collecting manuscripts, maps, diaries, journals, photographs, and exhibit artifacts, and storing these items in various basements, Society members initiated a county-wide fundraising campaign for the purpose of building a museum. As a result, a museum building was built in 1962. The BCHS, along with its collection, was housed in this building at 300 Bemidji Avenue, in downtown Bemidji, which was shared with the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce. Here, the BCHS operated a museum, offered research assistance, and pursued its mission of preserving Beltrami County History for more than twenty years.

In 1993, the BCHS moved to a commercial building located at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds. The structure accommodated the storage and archival needs of the organization, however, exhibit space was limited. In 1999 a collaborative vision to bring the BCHS and the Museum back to downtown Bemidji became a community-wide priority. Minnesota State Legislative appropriations, investments by local units of government, area businesses, and countless individuals achieved an ambitious goal of acquiring the historic 1912 Great Northern Depot. In December 2000, the restored, climate-controlled structure became the new home of the BCHS and Beltrami County
History Center, complete with an interpretive four-gallery Museum, research library, museum gift shop, meeting, room, and archival storage space.


  • Dan Allosso, President

  • Cecelia McKeig, President-Elect

  • Charlene Sturk, Treasurer

  • Chris Muller, Secretary

  • Jim Aakhus

  • Ashley Reynolds

  • Colleen Deel

  • Charles Dolson

  • Amy Karwoski

  • Catherine Marchand

  • Leo Soukup

  • Lynn Eaton, Liaison, City of Bemidji

  • John Ellis, Liaison, Bemidji State University

  • Diane Mostad, Liaison, North Beltrami History Center

  • Laurie Turner, Liaison, Blackduck History & Art Center

  • Emily Thabes, Executive Director

       email Emily:


We acknowledge that Beltrami County Historical Society is located on land that is the current and ancestral homeland of the Ojibwe and Dakota. We acknowledge the painful history of genocide, forced assimilation, and efforts to alienate the Indigenous inhabitants from their territory here. We honor and respect the many diverse Indigenous peoples who still connect to this land and retain tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, and cultural resilience. Indigenous people are spiritual and physical caretakers of this land to which we all belong. Beltrami County Historical Society respects these sacred lands, stands with the community members from these Nations, and will fight injustice in all its forms.


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