By Elinor Clack
The Summer Lecture Program will feature the spinning skills of Katherine Donaldson at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the foyer of the Heritage Center.
Also, spinning wheels collected by Toni Hagener, the Clack Museum's initial curator, will be on display. Hagener will introduce Donaldson.
As readers of this column know, Clack was president of the history group and she agreed to help with museum displays under the direction of Hagener, who agreed to restore the museum to its interpretive format.
Initially, the two women felt it essential to know what artifacts were in storage to carry out their project, so they began in the basement of the museum where the collection is stored.
The first thing that met their eyes was the spinning wheel that had been one of the prime exhibits of the Homestead House when the museum was housed at the Hill County fairgrounds. They learned it was to be deaccessioned and disappear permanently. True, it was broken, but a large part of a conservator's skills lays in repairing artifacts pertaining to our history. Before the ladies finished, this skill was taxed frequently. Craftswoman Barb Coffman, who holds many college degrees along with a great dose of "mother wit," volunteered to repair many artifacts. Hagener remembered the details of her search for a spinning wheel and determined to restore this one. She took it home and worked evenings with the help of her son, Louis, and his carpenter skills. They reconstructed the wheel until they realized they needed professional help to identify and find necessary missing pieces.
That, in itself, was a challenge. While Havre has had several notable weavers, no one seemed to have much knowledge of spinning wheels. Hagener's research led her to Kathy Donaldson, a pharmacist at Kmart, who had learned to spin and weave as a student at Eastern Illinois University in 1980. Donaldson said there is a large and active spinner's and weaver's guild in Charleston, Ill., home of Eastern Illinois University. She lived in Charleston for 10 years and was active in the guild. She said she learned a lot from the other guild members and especially enjoyed spinning wool from various breeds of sheep. Her favorites are Lincoln and Rommey. She has lived in Havre since 1990, and her husband is employed at Montana State University-Northern. They are the parents of four children.
Hagener originated the summer lecture program and is aware of the difficulty of finding speakers on a weekly basis over long term. Clack asked for her help in finding interesting speakers and Hagener led her to invite Gene Etchart, who spoke Wednesday on the civilian pilot program. When he came to Havre to check signals with Clack, he asked if Hagener had suggested him. Yes, he went on to say, he had shared committee responsibilities with Hagener and had great respect for this smart lady.
Earlier, a gentleman who had been on the committee to add Virginia City to the responsibilities of the Montana Historical Society stopped by the museum and asked to be remembered to Hagener. He went on to explain that the committee members were at a loss as to where and how to begin until Hagener rolled up her sleeves and said, "Let's get with it."
This fall, the planning committee for the Montana Historical Society chose Havre for the site of its fall conference. A meeting date with the local committee was set, but the planners came up a day earlier to confer with Hagener. You see, you will find a lot of talent at this program.