Emily Mineart. (Submitted photo)
Emily Mineart. (Submitted photo)
The Porter House board of directors announces the arrival of Emily Mineart, the first full-time, year-round staffer at Decorah's popular house museum.

Mineart, the daughter of Janis and Gary Mineart of Decorah, is a 2010 graduate of Luther College. She recently earned her master's degree in library science at Simmons College in Boston, with a study focus on special collections.

Last summer, Mineart served as a volunteer intern at the Porter House Museum.

"It quickly became clear that we had a wonderful chance to involve Emily in every aspect of the museum's future," said Board President Midge Kjome. "She is now helping us with organization, membership, guiding, fundraising and planning. She is a treasure, and we are eager for the Decorah community to get to know her."

Betty Eggers, secretary of the Porter House board, added: "This is a great example of Iowans coming together to keep a talented young person in our state. Emily's enthusiasm for the house, historic rock wall, butterflies and natural history collections is irresistible."

Mineart's work made it possible for the Porter House to be open on three-day weekends throughout September and October. The expanded hours attracted many new visitors, both locally and from out-of-state.

Kris Erickson, board treasurer, said, "Emily's presence here year-around also makes it possible for us to plan some longer-range projects like collection cataloging and photography, preservation and conservation projects, improving our existing exhibitions and creating a new exhibition space for changing displays."

The Porter House Museum is a private, non-profit organization with an independent board of directors. It receives no ongoing city, county or state funding, and has relied for over 40 years upon much-appreciated volunteers and private donations. Jeanne Wright, another board member, said: "We expect, with Emily's help, to launch a wider membership program. We already have nearly 200 area households as members, and that's great-but we want to build a stronger membership base for this important attraction. Local business participation in our corporate membership program will be a substantial part of that effort."

Mineart has welcomed many school and community groups to the museum, including Decorah first-grade art students, Boy Scout Troop 66 and the Decorah High School Life Skills class with their instructor, Michelle Monreal.

Recent grant success by Monreal has opened up opportunities for studies in various aspects of the natural sciences.

"A visit to the Porter House with its collections of butterflies, insects and natural history specimens was a 'natural' for this student group," said C.J. Huber, the newest member of the Porter House board. "We are all excited that the Porter House can expand its services to local student groups, using the house and collections for exciting educational opportunities at all levels. The Porter House has long offered free tours for area school groups, and Emily will help us expand and develop its services to students."

Although the Porter House is closed for the season, special group tours can be arranged by calling Emily Mineart at the Porter House (563-382-8465) during weekly business hours. The public will enjoy the annual old-fashioned Christmas decorations at the house with music and refreshments during the Christmas Open House Saturday, Dec. 3, from 1 to 4 p.m. A spring series of concerts also are planned for the Porter House music room.

For details on events, consult the new Porter House website at porterhousemuseum.org or visit the Porter House Facebook page.

"We hope that everyone in the community will help us welcome Emily," said Kjome. "We will be reaching out to generous individuals, to area companies, to foundations,and to other sources of funding to make certain that we raise enough operating funds to keep Emily in the years ahead. We know everyone understands the value of having an asset like the Porter House in the community, and we invite you all to help us continue to preserve and share this unique historic gem."