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Keeper of the Past 

MAC special collections curator Rose Krause is surrounded by history every day

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What fascinates Rose Krause isn’t always the story behind an object or photo from the past, but how and why those things survived long enough to make it to the shelves in the cavernous archives of the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture.

“It could have just gone away,” Krause says. “But someone saw it and decided, ‘Well, this might be significant and maybe they’ll want it at the museum,’ and because they thought that, it’s here, and that’s incredible.”

Like a series of letters written by an unmarried, pregnant teenager living here during World War II to the serviceman father of her unborn daughter, urging him to marry her against his claims that he didn’t love her. And many of the original architectural plans hand-drawn onto linen sheets for elegant, upper-class homes designed by Spokane icon Kirtland Cutter.

As curator and archivist of the MAC’s special collections at the Joel E. Ferris Research Library and Archives, almost everything that’s added to the shelves of Inland Northwest history passes through Krause’s careful hands.

A soft-spoken woman with rectangular glasses and dark brown hair cropped into a neat bob grazing her chin, Krause has been captivated by history and libraries — and what it would have been like to live in another era — as long as she can remember.

It’s easy for people to assume that she’s something of a walking encyclopedia of little-known facts. But Krause is quick to point out that she hasn’t seen everything in the museum’s massive collection during the more than eight years she’s worked there. It would take a couple of lifetimes to do so, she says.

Because part of her job is making sure that the MAC’s collection diversely represents different eras, voices and social status, Krause does, on occasion, turn down offers for donated material that may mirror already documented periods of our history.

That’s the part that scares her the most.

“There is a lot of power in the decisions that are made about what is kept and not kept, and that is really scary because I certainly don’t want to be the entity that sort of erases something that happened in the past.” 

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