History, when done well, puts the past in context with the present so people are better able to create a strong future.

The Goodhue County Historical Society does just that, preserving physical objects, collecting oral histories, connecting today’s generations with those now gone, educating people through programs and exhibits, as well as promoting the natural and cultural legacy we inherited.

Early settlers saw the value and need. They chartered the Goodhue County Historical Society in 1869. After residing for 37 years in the Courthouse basement, the society moved into former Baptist Old People’s Home atop College Hill in Red Wing and today the oldest county historical society in Minnesota remains one of the best.

The society will conclude its yearlong 150th anniversary celebration this month with the “Hats Off to History” gala. More than just a party — although the ticketed event certainly will be that — the gala is a chance to help ensure we preserve local history for another 150 years.

The gala will run 5-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, at the Goodhue County History Center. If you can’t make it, send a donation.

Executive Director Robin Wipperling reports that close to 5,000 county residents of all ages have taken advantage of sesquicentennial events and exhibits. If you missed these, no worries. The Goodhue County Historical Society has 68,000 items in the collection and archives -- everything from objects to papers to photos — and you can see several hundred of them on any given day. Winter hours November through April are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Admission is reasonable and worthwhile at $5 for adults and $2 for students. Children 12 and under enter free. What you see and learn will give you a renewed appreciation for those who came before you.

In Wipperling’s words, “If we don’t have these history centers, think of what would happen. All of that would be lost. If we lose that history, think of where we would — or wouldn’t be — today.”