Historical Society names new executive director

James Lundgren

By: William Morris
January 26, 2018

There’s a new face at the head of the Steele County Historical Society.

James Lundgren, a nonprofit veteran who has held leadership roles for museums and historical organizations in Rochester, New Ulm, Wabasha, Ohio and elsewhere, is the new executive director of the history center. Lundgren’s first day in the office was last week, and he was back on Thursday for his second day getting up to speed.

Lundgren, who is in the process of relocating from Minneapolis, said he’s excited about small towns in general, and the Owatonna position in particular.

“I’ve got a career in nonprofit administration, mostly at local history levels, so I’m very excited about the prospect of being here with the Steele County Historical Society,” he said. “I’ve been in the facility before and was very excited for them when they were able to build it six years ago, and even more so now to be a part of it.”

Lundgren hasn’t met with the full board of directors yet, and said it’s too early to talk about specific operational plans and goals, but said he’s excited by what he sees in the works.

“The Village of Yesteryear has been something that I’ve visited a number of times over the years,” he said. “The quality of what the facility offers, looking at the plans here, that they have an exhibit plan that stretches out for several years. Overall, it’s a very high-quality organization that’s very organized and has a lot going for it.”

Board member Jerry Ganfield, and until recently board president, has served as interim director since the Society parted ways with former director Kim Purscell in April. Ganfield said he’s happy to turn the reins over to Lundgren, and even more so in light of Lundgren’s qualifications.

“We’ve taken some time to evaluate our needs and had 18 applicants,” he said. “We interviewed six of them, and it came down to a unanimous choice by the board of directors … [because of] his experience with nonprofits, his experience with other museums.”

Ganfield said the board will continue work on ongoing projects, such as adding a new “service bay” for historical automotive and manufacturing displays, as well as addressing maintenance concerns around the center and Village property.

“We’ll need to catch James up with all those discussions and possibilities,” he said.

In the meantime, the Society is planning to host a meet-and-greet event for Lundgren on Feb. 15 at 4:30 p.m. at the History Center.

William Morris got his start in the newspaper trade as a recurring editorial intern in Wisconsin and has been writing about business, government and crime at the Owatonna People’s Press since 2015. He now splits his time working with the newspaper and as Associate Editor for Forge.

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