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Museum Community Needs To Come Together

POSTED March 30, 2010 8:23 p.m.

The Oakdale Museum is once again a treasure for the community.

Two years ago a local organization was formed by a group of residents who wanted to not only reopen the museum, but also allow it to thrive. This organization, the Friends of Oakdale Heritage (FOH), made an agreement with the City of Oakdale to manage the day-to-day operations of the museum and reopen it to the community. After more than a year of hard work — which continues today — they have been successful.

But FOH, and the museum, will someday in the future lose another treasure, and we hope they do their best to avoid this.

Long time Oakdale residents are aware that Tim Haidlen is responsible for documenting much of the history of Oakdale. In the 1970s he made his way about town, recording interviews with older residents and documenting their memories. Sadly, Haidlen died in the 1970s at a young age, long before his time. Thankfully, these taped interviews and Haidlen’s efforts have been preserved at the museum.

Almost three decades ago, another group of Oakdale residents picked up where Haidlen left off, and their efforts resulted in the opening of the Oakdale Museum. Among the leaders of this effort were Glenn and Laura Burghardt. Glenn later became the first curator of the museum, and Laura was a long time Oakdale Museum Commission member. Their interest in Oakdale’s history and their efforts to document and preserve our community’s history resulted in Oakdale possessing one of the best small town museums in the Central Valley.

The city dismissed Burghardt in 2007, installed term limits for commission members, later disbanded a new commission, and generally threw a spoke in the wheel of museum operations, causing the facility to close. Items within the museum were moved, packed away, and in some cases, discarded.

The reasons the city took such drastic action remains a mystery; some have speculated the dismissal of Burghardt and the entire museum commission stemmed from nothing more than a personality conflict between city officials and members of the museum community. Nevertheless, it was the entire Oakdale community that suffered as their heritage literally rotted away behind locked doors.

The Burghardts were instrumental in not only bringing a museum to Oakdale; their interest in the history of our community led to a greater understanding of Oakdale’s past. During their 20-plus year tenure at the museum, they raised the funds to copy old issues of The Oakdale Leader on microfilm, which is still available today at the Oakdale Library, and Glenn’s monthly articles on the history of Oakdale were very popular among the paper’s readers.

And the Burghardts’ knowledge of Oakdale history remains unsurpassed.

An example of this occurred recently when The Leader began running a new feature with the help of Friends of Oakdale Heritage. FOH members selected an item they located while conducting an inventory of the museum’s contents, and it was photographed for the March 24 issue, with readers asked to identify it. FOH members were not sure what the object was, and felt it would be fun to include the community in discovering its use.

Within hours of The Leader’s publication, the paper received a call from a resident identifying the object.

The caller was Glenn Burghardt.

The Burghardts had actually identified the object years ago, and even had an old book identifying the object in a photo.

Our question is this:

Why isn’t FOH working with the Burghardts to improve the museum even more?

Although the Burghardts were dismissed from their positions, Oakdale City Manager Steve Hallam said nothing is preventing them from visiting the museum. He even said he believes Glenn Burghardt will offer many nuggets of advice and wisdom as mutual respect re-builds.

The Burghardts seem willing, but still question if they are welcome.

The Friends of Oakdale Heritage have done a tremendous job in organizing and reopening the museum. We hope they utilize all the resources available to them — the Burghardts included — to make the Oakdale Museum the best facility possible.

Because as we have found, these resources won’t always be there.

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