For Dorothy, keep history alive

By John V. Wood
| August 19, 2020 1:00 AM

My good friend Dorothy Dahlgren, the director of the Museum of North Idaho, is taking a well-deserved retirement after a long 38-year career. I have known and worked with Dorothy since she started back in 1982, for I began researching a railroad book at the “Museum” about 1974 — that before the current building (the old Co-op gas station) was even acquired. Back then the late Carl Krueger was in charge of the collections, and the photos were stored at what was then the North Idaho Junior College.

Carl introduced me to Dorothy after she had been hired and I have worked with her at the Museum ever since. While I have lived in Oregon (teaching history and English until my retirement), I grew up and Coeur d’Alene graduating from CHS in 1963 and the University of Idaho in 1968. I continue to visit Coeur d’Alene and have carried on research about local history using the resources at the Museum, and Dorothy has always helped and encouraged me.

While working at the Museum I have watched her confidently handle multiple tasks at the same time that would have confounded any mere “mortal” — juggling the scheduling of volunteers to handle someone who has called in sick, answering the phone with questions about renting the “Little Red Chapel” for a wedding, helping the volunteer working at the front counter make change, and other things too numerous to mention — although I will add even dealing with clogged toilets in the bathroom. And this is a person who is trained as a curator of museum collections; a job that she seems to have done in her “spare time!”

I don’t know how Dorothy survived even one year. She has truly had to be a jack of all trades. To me it would seem that the Museum needs to hire at least two or three people to handle what she has done. But somehow she has managed to keep the ship afloat for 38 years. She has “fought the good fight” and I pray will be able to enjoy her leisure. However, I can’t see her sitting around much as she has been constantly moving and working all her life.

Dorothy has requested that “in lieu of cards and well wishes, please consider giving to the Museum’s Endowment Fund.” Now that the Museum has a truly historic building (the J. C. White House) it can develop into a much-needed modern facility that the community can be proud of, the help of the community is essential.

Sadly, in our day of electronic marvels, the past is not valued as it once was. I think that the following quote by William Shannon (a former ambassador to Ireland under President Carter) helps put in perspective what we are missing.

“Disdain for history is symptomatic of the malaise of today’s youth culture and the larger society which nurtured it. Resenting death, we murdered time. Almost too late we see that what we have slain is not time but our sense of ourselves as humans. To reject the past is to deprive today of its meaning tomorrow. To evade the significance of time is to empty life of its significance. It is that meaninglessness which pervades this age of instant gratification and instant results and permanent dissatisfaction.” — William V. Shannon (1927-1988)

Our museum is a reflection of us through the photos and other artifacts of our ancestors in this beautiful place, North Idaho; and neglecting it (the Museum) is neglecting ourselves and our own potential.

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John V. Wood is a resident of Philomath, Ore.