Hit by a soft economy, the Nodaway County Historical Society has been working over the past couple of years to place its operations on a sounder financial footing.
In recent months those efforts have borne fruit, as evidenced by a presentation Friday during which local Elks Lodge Trustee James Beemer presented longtime society member Tom Carneal with a contribution for $400.
The check was latest in a series of gifts solicited during an ongoing mail campaign that has raised nearly $5,000, money that will be used to curate and preserve the society's collection as well as maintain its three-building complex on North Walnut Street in Maryville.
Though Carneal said the organization has now collected enough funds to keep the lights on and the doors open in the immediate future, he urged those who value the preservation of local history to remember that expenses recur, and the need for financial support continues.
"Don't stop now," he said.
Though mostly identified with its museum at 110 N. Walnut, the society also owns and maintains two other buildings: the one-room Hickory Grove School, which was built in 1887 near Clearmont and moved onto the museum grounds from Northwest Missouri State University in 1996, and the 1849 Caleb Burns house.
Burns, born in 1821, settled in Maryville in 1845, living first in a log cabin at what is now the corner of Second and Buchanan streets. He was one of a group of early settlers who were instrumental in making Maryville the Nodaway County seat, ultimately serving as a justice of the peace and county superintendent of schools.
Both the Burns house and the school have required significant maintenance and repairs in recent years, creating a substantial drain on society resources.
Also, as society President Tom Steiner pointed out in a letter to potential donors, museums aren't like other facilities. In order to cut expenses, the museum closes its doors during the winter, but the building remains filled with fragile documents and decades-old artifacts that must be kept at minimum temperatures.
Other continuing expenses beyond basic utilities include insurance, meeting health and safety requirements and regular maintenance on structures well over a century old.