The board of the Richfield Historical Society this summer accepted the resignation of the its director, Doug Ernst, due to health considerations.
Jon Wickett, the board’s president, said they will miss the energy and valued guidance that Ernst has provided the past couple of years.
Ernst’s work with the Historical Society and the Richfield History Center began when he was hired a couple of years ago. He understood his high level of interest in history to have orginitated in a single lesson he experienced in school.
Ernst told the Sun Current at the time of his hire, “When I was a junior in high school, I was taking American history. And the teacher brought in a – sort of a traveling evangelist – to speak to the class. What (the speaker) did was to personalize things. He started talking about the Apostle Paul as this little 5-foot nothing, wiry guy who was mean as heck, loved persecuting Christians and had long, shaggy hair and dust all over his feet because he walked everywhere.”
What he learned from that lesson: “It took me from names, dates, and places and vague stories in a history book to thinking of history in terms of me meeting you and finding out your history; or you meeting me. The names and dates suddenly are a lot less important than the actual story.”
That perspective was evident as Ernst pointed the society in a direction that not only featured the city’s past, but accentuated the use of modern technology in his efforts. He regularly recorded podcasts and utilized social media to educate.
“We’re so sorry to lose him,” Wickett said, adding that the pandemic had “kept (Ernst) from really claiming ownership of his job.”
Now that Ernst is no longer around, his absence has challenged the board and the volunteers to take on a larger workload.
In addition to Wickett, other volunteers have had to learn about coordinating volunteers, watching over fundraisers, and managing operations, among other daily duties.
“We can only do so much,” Wickett said.
He did indicate the society will be looking to hire a new director soon, but it’s a timely process that includes posting the opening and conducting interviews for the position.
Wickett said it probably wouldn’t be until early 2022 before they had someone hired and in place.
Keeping the History Center operating and maintaining the Historical Society’s fundraising efforts is crucial at this point.
“It’s not a perfect system, but I applaud all the volunteers for stepping up to keep things running,” Wickett said.
The Historical Society will host its annual meeting Oct. 2, where Ernst will be invited and honored for the work he completed during his time as director.
In the meantime, the History Center will remain open, despite the rise in COVID-19 cases around the state and country. “We’ll be following the guidelines from the city, the county, the state, and the CDC and we will stay open as long as they say we can,” Wickett said.
The History Center asks that non-vaccinated visitors wear masks, while recommending that vaccinated visitors also mask.
Wickett said they ask that those recommendations be followed because many of the volunteers at the Historical Society are seniors.