De Pere Historical Society keeps city’s past alive

Quinn Dekker, Staff writer

Many De Pere High School students may overlook the De Pere Historical Society. The small building located next to the Kress Library may look small, but it has been taking action to preserve De Pere’s history and engage with the community for years.

De Pere students are probably most familiar with the historical society from a fifth-grade field trip where students were brought down to tour the society, get educated on Wisconsin history an even operate the locks by the river.

For non-students, the society features a museum housed in one of, if not the oldest, buildings in town where visitors can view artifacts, scan old tax forms and other records dating back to the 1880s and find out about their personal genealogy.

The historical society is a non-profit organization that provides all of these services for free with the exception of a small fee if visitors wish to print copies of documents for themselves. The society is funded by members who regularly donate funds, and as of 2017, they have $298,080 in assets, according to 2017 Form 990 tax forms, the most recent available. That includes $12,376 in membership fund as well as $5,350 in government grants and $10,646 in other contributions all given within the previous year.

That money is being used to continue the school field trips and keep the museum open. The museum currently employs a part-time director as well as works with someone who helps with the technology used by the historical society. Treasurer Mark Reinhart commented that the historical society is considering a possible future project of investing in boat tours in the De Pere area.

When asked if the funding they received was sufficient enough to keep the historical society, treasurer Mark Reinhart stated, “We’re holding our own basically both with the donations from the public, and we get a couple dollars from the city each year.”

Reinhart also spoke on how James Mulva, a former CEO of a large Texas oil company who was also born in De Pere, plans on building a cultural center featuring a large facility with several exhibits and even a theatre. The De Pere Historical Society was originally planned to be moved inside of the new cultural center, but this was canceled due to a lack of space in the new facility. Instead, Mulva may fund expansion on the current historical society’s building, Reinhart also stated.

Reinhart said that other improvements the historical society will make in the upcoming years are updating the computers they use before Microsoft stops supporting their current software, and they will continue to expand their ever-growing collection of artifacts that are donated to them by De Pere citizens.

The De Pere Historical Society puts these artifacts to greater use by displaying them for generations to see, and they are committed to educating all De Pere citizens that there is more to our town than we may think.