Mark King never intended to become the Carlton County Historical Society director.
In fact, after he left home in Cloquet for college, he "never really saw himself coming back" to the town. He graduated from college in California and worked for many years in publishing in the Twin Cities..
Several of the publications King was working for folded, so he sought a career change. He returned to school to pursue a master's degree in library science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then got a job at the Cloquet Public Library.
After seven years at the library, King said one of the CCHS board members asked if he was interested in the open director position. He said he enjoyed his job at the library, but he also felt the lure of Cloquet's history, especially near the 100th anniversary of the 1918 fires that devastated much of Carlton County.
"Everyone who lives in Cloquet knows about the Cloquet fire," King said. "It was probably the most defining event in our local history."
Since starting at CCHS about three months ago, King has learned that being the organization's director has more to do with managing budgets and committees than it does with working with historic artifacts and research - not that the work bothers him.
"I found that I do enjoy the aspects of organizing and management, which is quite a surprise to me, as it isn't something that I had seen or done before," King said.
He also has some ideas for future exhibits at the CCHS, like highlighting the area's French fur traders.
King has a personal interest in the fur trade. He extensively researched his own genealogy, and learned his ancestors were furriers in Nancy, France, centuries ago and could possibly have purchased some of the furs in northern Minnesota.
King is also interested in Cloquet's Shaw Memorial Building, home to the CCHS since 1987. The building was reconstructed in 1919 after the fires, making next year the building's 100th anniversary.
"This building has been home to the Historical Society for much of its history," King said. "We'll look at having an exhibit showing the very beginning with the architectural plans and some documentation as it transitioned into becoming the Historical Society."
King said the CCHS has a "fantastic board" that has worked diligently to increase the visibility and membership of the organization. That dedication has energized King to promote CCHS and the county's history.
"I just enjoy coming to work every day and working in the midst of this historic building and the artifacts that we have here," he said.