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Kelsey Opsahl, left, and Amy Degerstrom authored the 'Images of America: Detroit Lakes' book.


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Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501
Detroit Lakes Online
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The forward thinking of people who document and then donate history is not only what keeps the Becker County Historical Society and Museum in business, it also helped produce a pictorial book featuring Detroit Lakes.


"This is everybody's story of Detroit Lakes because it's everybody's pictures. And this couldn't have happened without those people," said Amy Degerstrom, the museum's executive director. "We were able to have photos from 1871 to modern day because of that."

The book project initially started a couple years ago as a Water Carnival anniversary project, but it never materialized. Admiral at the time Kim Bettcher had started the process and then passed along the Becker County Museum's contact information as a possible group to finish the project. When contacted, Degerstrom agreed to it.

She had eight weeks to complete the book.

Arcadia Publishing released "Images of America: Detroit Lakes" Monday for sale to the public, and Degerstrom has a couple book signings set up already.

Arcadia's niche is to publish books on cities around the United States, and while they started with larger cities, the publishing company is getting into smaller communities as well -- like Detroit Lakes.

Degerstrom said that she had read through some of the books Arcadia had published in the past, and she helped with the research on a book that was published about a town when she lived in Ohio, so she knew of the company and that they produced quality pieces.

Once agreeing to the project, Degerstrom said she recruited Kelsey Opsahl, who works as the historical society board of director's recording secretary, and they started "looking at how to organize it," she said. "Most are chronological and we thought that would work for ours."

There were requirements for the book, including that it had to be 128 pages and have 120-200 photos included. The "Images of America" books are pictorials, but that proved to be time consuming as well.

They decided to focus on businesses and street scenes rather than on individuals, for two reasons. For one, there wouldn't be enough space to tell all the family histories of the area properly. Secondly, more people would have a "memory spark" from a location and could relate to it rather than a person they may not even know or be related to.

Once they got their focus, Degerstrom and Opsahl pulled out pictures, and tried to find ones that hadn't been used in previous pictorial publications.

"We tried not to repeat pictures if possible," Degerstrom said.

They also picked photos that featured sites around town that could be viewed throughout the years. For example, there could be a shot of the corner of Holmes Street and Washington Avenue that is taken at several different time periods so readers can see how the corner changed over the years.

The selection of pictures, Degerstrom said, shows both the working side of the city -- blacksmiths, railroad, etc. -- and the "flashier" parts, like the Hotel Minnesota.

Once they had a pile of pictures that they could identify with a year they were taken, "then it became (about) finding the story of those pictures," she said.

Using all of the resources at the museum -- both physical archives and personnel -- Degerstrom and Opsahl identified the stories behind the 200 photos. The descriptions for the photos also had to be a certain amount of words, depending on the size of the photo.

If there wasn't enough, or too much, information for a photo, they pulled out the photo along the way.

After they finished with the photos and descriptions and sent them off to the publisher, Arcadia sent them back a proof copy, for which Degerstrom said she enlisted a few community members to help proof.

While Arcadia publishers could help correct spelling and grammar errors, it was those who have lived in Detroit Lakes for years who could make sure the historical aspect was correct.

After several proofs were sent back and forth, the final product was printed and went on sale Monday. It can be purchased at Book World in Detroit Lakes, inside the museum and online through Arcadia or Amazon.

The cost of the book is $21.99, and $8 of every book sale goes back to the museum.

Degerstrom and Opsahl will be having a book signing this Monday, March 5, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at La Barista in the Washington Square Mall. There will be hors d'oeuvres and a wine tasting as well.

Another book signing will be held March 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Book World.

Degerstrom said they are also open to coming to any organizations to speak and promote the book.

It's projects like the pictorial of Detroit Lakes that makes Degerstrom encourage people to donate pictures to the Becker County Historical Society and Museum.

"It helps us tell your story," she said.

And it doesn't matter what the story is, because it's of use.

"It's a glimpse into everyday life. They're not thinking it's that interesting," she said of some photos. But, they are interesting, especially to future generations.

In 50 to 100 years, people are going to appreciate that someone took the time to document changes in the city and donate them for preservation. Stories and books like "Images of America: Detroit Lakes" wouldn't exist if it weren't for people donating those pictures, Degerstrom noted.