Downsville (WQOW)- The Town of Dunn fights for museum artifacts after the Dunn County Historical Society takes them away.
The Town of Dunn bought the Empire in Pines Museum this January, transferring the property for $1, and paying the facility's monthly bills since.
“We spend a little money on the museum, trying to keep our little village going,” Town of Dunn Chair Don Heit said. “With restaurants and everything else, they're having a hard time making it today, so anything we can do to entice this and make this village work better is a plus for everyone.”
However, lost records call into question the ownership of artifacts within the museum.
“Many of these people feel that a lot of the artifacts belong here,” Heit said. “Dunn county historical feels they own them all. If they're theirs, they can definitely have them, but I have to make sure they are theirs before i allow them to go.”
The Dunn County Historical Society entered the Empire in Pines Museum last weekend, removing most of the historical contents.
“They had no right to do this,” museum volunteer Pat Thibado said. “What they took out of there they had no right to do. They took the clothes off the mannequins. They took the toilet paper out of the bathrooms. That's how petty this was.”
Pat volunteered much of his time to the museum, building a shed to store antiques, adding historical pictures to the windows, fixing the upstairs fire escape, and more.
“All they wanted to do was close this down,” Pat said. “They never put anything into this. There wasn't a hand, but they could get 20-30 people to come down here and haul everything out overnight seemingly.”
Pat's wife worked with the Historical Society for 11 years, and was fired without reason last week.
“We're supposed to be about community and education,” Carol Thibado said. “You have to give back more than you take, and i don't see them as doing that.”
Heit says he tried reaching an agreement with the county to keep the artifacts in Downsville before they took matters into their own hands.
“Hopefully we can do this in a friendly, equitable manner,” Heit said. “It's getting a little messy, but maybe we can sort through it.”
While artifact ownership remains uncertain, the museum's bare walls make room for a new chapter in Downsville's history.
“This isn't about destruction, and it isn't about closing,” Pat said. “It's about reopening. It's about rebirth. About gaining our history back. We'll make it better. We'll make it bigger, and year, we'd like some of these things back.”
The Dunn County Historical Society did not want to comment on the current situation. Heit says they are accepting donations to fill the Empire of Pines museum.