The Weber files: Part 3

Previously, we looked at the story of the Weber family, who emigrated from Austria-Hungary in the 1860s and settled down to farm near Centerville. Their farm, started by Joseph Weber and his wife Annie, was passed down to their son Leonard and his wife Mary, and then to their son Donald. Over three generations, many documents, photographs and objects were accumulated and saved. Eventually, this collection of materials from their lives made its way to the Anoka County Historical Society.

How does the historical society handle a collection like this? It came to us in two cardboard boxes and one plastic tub, probably how it had been stored since Donald Weber’s death, and it was for the most part unorganized.

Our first job was to sift through everything briefly and get a sense of what was there. After that, a basic sort into one of three categories (paper, photographs, and 3-D artifacts) gave us easier places to get started. In all three of those piles, we had to look through the items and decide which things really helped tell the story of the Weber family and should be kept, and which things did not help to tell that story. For example, we sent one older photograph to the White Bear Lake Historical Society because it fit their collections better than ours.

After sorting, we housed the items in appropriate archival boxes and folders (all acid-free). We sorted paper records into relevant groupings, placed them in folders and then stored them in document boxes designed for that purpose. After being digitized, photographs were housed similarly. Three-dimensional artifacts received paper tags or other labels before being wrapped in tissue and stored in a larger box. Each item also received a digital record so it can be easily found by researchers.

All new collections begin with me, the collections manager, but larger donations require more hands to process swiftly. In this case, volunteer coordinator Sara helped with initial organization, volunteer Gail scanned and created digital records for the many photographs, and volunteer Kelsie created digital records for all the paper documents – projects which spanned many weeks.

Donald Weber never married and had no children. Fortunately, the story of his family can live on here at the Anoka County Historical Society through the items preserved in this collection. The history of the Weber family becomes part of the bigger story of Anoka County and all those who have lived, loved, worked and died here.

This collection tells other stories as well, ones that are still relevant today and into the future: the stories of people who came here from other places, people who farmed, people on the home front during wartime and what people do in old age.

We hope you have enjoyed these articles. If you would like to look at all of our records of the Weber collection, you can now do so from the comfort of home at Just type the following number into the search box at the top of the screen: 2016.1726. Then you will be able to look at our catalog entries for all of the Weber items that now live here at the Anoka County Historical Society. We will slowly be adding more and more of our collections onto the MN Collections website, so check back regularly to see the interesting things we have here. If there are any items you would like to look at more closely, stop by the History Center in Anoka and we’ll be happy to help.

Audra Hilse is the archivist and administrator for the Anoka County Historical Society.