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Zuehlke delves into local history

Nobles County Historical Society Director Sally Zuehlke stands beside one of the first books she read as a child at Central Elementary School in Worthington, now displayed at the Nobles County Historical Society Museum. <em>(Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)</em>

WORTHINGTON -- She's only worked at the Nobles County Historical Society for a month and a half, but Sally Zuehlke is already strategizing how best to accomplish the goals she'd like to accomplish there.

First of all, she wants to increase awareness of the NCHS -- hidden away in the lower level of the War Memorial Building (Nobles County Library), 407 12th St., in Worthington. By doing so, she hopes to attract more members, particularly some younger blood, to the society.

"The board's goal and my goal is to increase the membership and activities," she said.

A 1970 graduate of Worthington High School, Zuehlke moved back to Worthington a little more than a year ago after working for many years in services and sales in the corporate arena or non-profit sector. Zuehlke applied for the part-time NCHS director position because it seemed like a good fit for her marketing experience and lifelong interest in history.

"My parents, Cal and Nancy Zuehlke, love history," she explained. "They took us to Washington, D.C., when I was 12 years old to see the Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial and all the monuments near the Capitol. We then went on to the 1963 World's Fair in New York City and actually climbed all the stairs in the Statue of Liberty. Since that young age, I have seen Hong Kong, France, Poland, Germany, Holland and Slovakia, enjoying historical sites and museums my whole life."

In her short time at NCHS, Zuehlke has discovered that a treasure trove of resources and artifacts are housed within its small space, as well as at Pioneer Village, adjacent to the Nobles County Fairgrounds, also run by NCHS. The museum and village serve as repositories for preserving significant pieces of the area's past, including records, scrapbooks, memorabilia and photographs.

"We want to make sure that the records of the businesses, the people, the life of Nobles County, are preserved so that future generations will always have access to that history," said Zuehlke.

The NCHS offices also serve as a research center, largely for people who are interested in genealogy. In the near future, additional computer space will be added to facilitate such research. People who are part of the Nobles County Genealogical Group are able to access genealogical resources such as, as part of their membership dues.

Besides increasing membership, Zuehlke would also like to recruit additional volunteers to assist with a variety of tasks at NCHS. For instance, volunteer Roger Zarn spends a couple afternoons each week scanning photos into the historical society's digital archive. Other volunteers clip out birth and death records and newspaper articles that will be of historical interest to future generations.

"We also have tons of artifacts that need to be displayed," said Zuehlke. "We can always use people to do computer entry, or there are people who volunteer out at Pioneer Village during the summer."

Taking a cue from public television drives, Zuehlke is intensifying her recruitment efforts with a membership incentive: Each new member at any level will receive a copy of "The History of Nobles County," written by Al Goff and published in 1958. (An excerpt is printed below.) The Goff tome is one of a number of historical reference books that is for sale at the NCHS.

NCHS members also receive free admission to Pioneer Village, which is open during the warmer weather months, and a quarterly newsletter.

While it's a far less tangible thing to promote, members also receive the satisfaction of helping to keep their community's history alive, Zuehlke stressed.

"How do you sell something which is of emotional value?" she said. "It's a feeling instead of a physical reward."

Zuehlke hopes more people will realize the importance of preserving the region's history and get involved with the NCHS.

"We are constantly learning from the past, yet creating new memories about history for the present," she said. "Worthington has changed so much in the past 40 years, with new buildings, new businesses and the new faces of many nations. This is the new history of Nobles County. There is so much more to celebrate and share."

The Nobles County Historical Society office and museum is open from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Nobles County Genealogy Group meets at 10 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month. For more information, phone 376-4431; email

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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