Scout catalogs museum photos for project

Viewing old photos at the Mille Lacs County Historical Society’s (MLCHS) depot museum in Princeton is much easier now because of the Eagle Scout project that local Boy Scout Cyrus Wolff recently completed.

More than 450 old photos no longer sit unorganized in boxes as a majority of the photos had been for years, making them sometimes difficult to locate and view. The project that Wolff supervised and participated in involved copying the photos, making a digital record of each, organizing the photo prints into categories and placing them in three large photo albums. The originals were then to be placed in a separate location for safekeeping.

The MLCHS Board honored Wolff on Feb. 11 for the best youth volunteer history project for the historical society in 2011. The board is also going to attach a stainless steel commemorative plate on a railroad tie alongside the train tracks that lie next to the museum. Words of Wolff’s choosing are to be engraved onto the plate.


The idea for the


The photo project is the result of the 17-year-old Wolff needing to complete a service project in order to attain the Boy Scout’s highest rank of Eagle Scout. Wolff was home-schooled in grades 1-8, spent his freshman and sophomore years at Princeton High School (PHS) and is now taking postsecondary educational option courses at Anoka Ramsey Community College in Cambridge. He is seeking an associate of fine arts degree with music emphasis.

Wolff was on the PHS speech team during the 2010-11 school year and he had asked speech team assistant coach Linda Evans about ideas for an Eagle Scout service project. She suggested he check with volunteers at the museum.

Wolff then met with museum volunteers and MLCHS board members Penny Quast and Melvin Lindquist.

Quast, the MLCHS board president, and Lindstrom, suggested the photo project.

The project that Wolff took on was to copy the museum’s most significant photos in order to make the project manageable. He first took the proposal to then scoutmaster Russell Vance of Troop 16 and also to a representative of the Eagle Scout Board of Review to get their blessing before implementing the project last fall.

He enlisted the assistance of PHS tech instructor Rick Kielty, who obtained clearance to use school equipment in a tech lab at the high school during a Saturday last autumn. Wolff paid for the $60 to $70 in ink needed to make the digital prints, as well as  two of the photo albums. Shopko donated the third photo album.

Kielty recalled the Saturday when the photo scanning took place, noting that there were two-member teams lined up at six stations in the PHS tech lab. Each station had a scanning machine, printer for making the prints and a computer for saving the digital images.

The workers that day spent four to five hours and were able to complete about half of that part of the project. Wolff finished the rest of the scanning and printing at home.

Those who worked at the school that Saturday included Wolff’s parents Tim and Sharma, Cyrus’ grandparents Carol and Bob Miller of Plymouth, some Boy Scouts, former Boy Scout Jasper McLaughlin, and Kielty. Wolff was mainly working as the supervisor, since the main mission of the Eagle Scout service project is to be the leader in it.

In December 2011, which was about a month after the first phase of the project, Wolff, working with a smaller group, categorized the digital prints and attached them to pages in three photo albums at the museum. The categories included buildings, people, the Brickton brickyard where cream-yellow bricks were once made just north of city limits, homes, schools and churches, military history, the growing of potatoes and other produce on a large scale, the lumber era and more.

Wolff, who says he has always been interested in history, discovered a lot about the “depth” of Princeton’s heritage, saying he “couldn’t have imagined a lot of it.”


The recognition

Quast began the presentation honoring Wolff at the depot museum by noting that a number of area residents have already stopped by to look at the photo prints in the albums and have identified some. “When you have a name, it gets into the history,” Quast said. Historical Society board member Barry Schreiber told Wolff that the photo project was professionally done and that Wolff was a “pathfinder” in leading the way for more youth to help the historical society with other projects. These old photos “enrich the texture of our lives,” and show the “richness” of Princeton’s history, Schreiber continued. The photos, Schreiber said, help residents today know what area people did many decades ago when they “passed through the same space we are in.”

Wolff says he is appreciative of the many people who assisted him in the project and that he is now interested in other opportunities with the historical society. He called Quast and Lindquist “cool people,” and was surprised to learn that there was a board dedicated to preserving Princeton’s heritage.

Lindquist says that more old photos at the museum still need to be copied and organized, but the most important ones have been cataloged through Wolff’s project.

Wolff has to still go through the Eagle Scout board of review and meet some formalities before he can become an Eagle Scout, but says he is “really satisfied” with the service project.

“I have a real feeling of accomplishment,” he said.