Heritage Group North receives grant to digitize yearbooks

Group members are looking to borrow missing Pine River, Backus and Pine River-Backus yearbooks

091620.PEJ.HGNYearbooks (1).JPG
Annette Houg of Heritage Group North holds the 1936 year book from Pine River High School. The oldest of the yearbooks available from the area schools, it has no photos. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Heritage Group North in Pine River received an $8,485 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society to digitize high school yearbooks for the Pine River, Backus and Pine River-Backus schools from 1936-2019.

"I started looking at the possibility of rounding up the yearbooks about a year ago," said Annette Houg, with HGN. "I found out the school has almost all of them and then started looking for the possibility of a grant."

The Pine River School yearbooks will be available from 1936-1990 with Backus School yearbooks from 1948-1990, after which the yearbooks for the merged Pine River-Backus High School will be scanned from 1990-2019. It is possible that future yearbooks will also be digitized; however, Houg said it's all a matter of funding.

The grant is a Legacy grant for the preservation of local history. Northern Micrographics will scan all of the available issues before safely returning them to the owners. Some yearbooks have been borrowed from Pine River-Backus High School. Others were in the Heritage Group North collection, and some are on loan from individuals. However, there are some years that are still missing.

  • The missing Pine River High School yearbooks are 1949, 1983 and 1985.
  • The missing Backus yearbooks are 1948, 1950, 1952-1960, 1962-1964, 1971, 1979 and 1984.

Heritage Group North is asking anyone with copies of the missing yearbooks to contact Annette Houg at 320-309-3700.
The scanning project will take approximately two months, after which the yearbooks will be viewable and searchable on a dedicated website. Heritage Group North will have digital backups of all the scanned yearbooks. Borrowed books will then be returned.


091620.PEJ.HGNYearbooks (1).JPG
Annette Houg, of Heritage Group North, holds the 1936 yearbook from Pine River High School. The oldest of the yearbooks available from area schools, it has no photos. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

"They do it with special equipment I just call a book scanner," Houg said. "They won't take anything apart. They will handle them very carefully and they will all be returned intact."

Houg applied for the grant once before, in April, before it was denied during the grant's early rounds. With more information on the digitizing process, Heritage Group North was able to apply again for digitization in July, and it was approved. The whole project is designed to preserve local history and make it easily accessible.

"Some families maybe didn't even take any other photos," Houg said. "They might be able to find something they never could anywhere else. I feel there's a connection with those years you were in high school. Whether you lost your books along the way or never had them, maybe some older people will be ready to look back."

At this time, Houg said there are no plans yet to digitize elementary school yearbooks.

"It would be something to look at," she said.

This project is connected to the theme of a large event Heritage Group North had to postpone that highlights the history of area schools and old schoolhouses. Now, the digitized yearbooks may be available when the event can take place.


"We're just moving forward with gathering memorabilia and setting up displays for the following year to hold the school event," Houg said.

Heritage Group North has also been working on maintenance projects at the Historic Railway Depot, including repairing the cellar door on one end of the building.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
What To Read Next
Get Local


Must Reads