America’s Credit Union Museum Asks You to Contribute Your Story

Shawn Gilfedder, museum board member and CEO of Kitsap Credit Union, shares insights on the important role the museum plays in today’s Credit Union Movement.

12/3/2019

America’s Credit Union Museum is home to the nation’s first credit union, opening in 1908 as St. Mary’s Cooperative Credit Association. Today it offers visitors an in-depth look at the nation’s rich credit union history and is a leader in archiving important credit union stories. Photo courtesy of America’s Credit Union Museum.

Since its inception, America’s Credit Union Museum, located in Manchester, New Hampshire, has archived, displayed, and shared credit union history. This important work reinforces the Credit Union Movement’s roots and inspires future generations of credit union leaders.

The museum is home to the nation’s first credit union – St. Mary’s Cooperative Credit Association – opened in 1908. Canadian credit union leader, Alphonse Desjardins, was essential in establishing the credit union, which celebrated its 111th anniversary just last week. Today, the museum is a leader in archiving the nation’s credit union history, according to Board member, Shawn Gilfedder, President and CEO of Kitsap Credit Union.

“The museum is actively collecting the histories of credit unions throughout the country, and now is the time to get your own credit union’s story into the collection,” Gilfedder said. “Future credit union leaders can learn from the history of the Movement, discover the Movement’s roots, and approach obstacles in a prepared, educated fashion for a stronger future of credit unions. I would ask folks to find a way to share and inspire others to promote positive change within the Movement. ACUM is a great resource to help you tell that story.”

Today, on Giving Tuesday, Anthem asks Gilfedder about his involvement with the museum and why it’s important to support it. Credit union advocates are encouraged to consider donating to the museum so that it may continue its important work. Individuals may make donations to the museum or become a member. Credit unions, leagues, and associations may also become museum members. More information about donating and memberships may be found online.

Anthem: What motivated you to become involved with the American Credit Union Museum?

America’s Credit Union Museum, located in Manchester, New Hampshire. Photo courtesy of America’s Credit Union Museum.

Shawn: I’ve been a member of the Board since 2015 and was asked to join as a credit union CEO who was vested in the Movement. It is important that we recognize our history and the foundation that was started in 1908 of volunteers working tirelessly and pooling resources to provide access to financial services. Visiting the museum affords the visitor to unplug and understand why the co-operative spirit of our collective efforts has deep meaning to our members.

Anthem: Had you been involved with the museum before joining the Board?

Shawn: Prior to joining the board, I had an awareness and understanding of the purpose of ACUM. I joined during the capital fundraising efforts to help complete the renovation of the museum. What has evolved over the past few years is the opportunity for others, on a national level, to connect with ACUM’s purpose. It cares for and makes accessible to this generation and all generations to come, real examples of values, philosophy, struggles, and successes of credit unions.

Anthem: What motivated you to join the Credit Union Movement?

Shawn: Having lead McGraw-Hill Credit Union (MHFCU) as CEO, I came to know Tyler Hicks, a former President of MHFCU and one of the most published individuals at the company. His life history of being a Merchant Marine during WWII and serving on the Columbian American shipline was riddled with challenges. He was torpedoed by German U-boats nine times and sunk three times! Eventually his life journey centered on fostering the growth of MHFCU and became an inspiration for me. He helped me understand the role of credit unions and how employees came to value its services during the great depression in New York City. 

Anthem: Since joining the museum’s board, what have you come to understand about it and its role within the Credit Union Movement? 

Many of the museum’s artifacts are original to the credit union, providing visitors with a walk through time. Photo courtesy of America’s Credit Union Museum.

Shawn: The museum not only warehouses artifacts, it is a distinctive tribute to the founders and leaders – their vision, commitment, and determination. You do not need to visit the museum – it can aide in research and provide meaningful background information and connections to folks that have added value to our lobbying and lawmaking efforts. It’s important for all to understand – especially this next generation of leadership – that ACUM is not just a renovated multifamily home in the former industrial downtown of Manchester. It’s the birthplace and home for credit unions that has inspired the efforts of many great people.

Anthem: How has the museum changed over the years from its early days to today?

Shawn: The most recent changes have been to the physical location. It is now a well-respected venue and meeting place for boards and strategic planning efforts – a truly inspiring setting that allows visitors to walk through our history and engage with the past. ACUM affords visitors the opportunity to build perspective when thinking about our purpose and the organizing principles of leading a co-operative financial services organization.

Anthem: Tell us a bit about why the museum is important to the overall history of the credit union story in the United States.

Kitsap Credit Union has a strong heritage of serving U.S. military members since opening in 1934 at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington. Last May, CEO, Shawn Gilfedder, celebrated that heritage at the Armed Forces Day parade. He’s seen here with Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Jensen. Jensen is a World War II veteran.

Shawn: Just because you live in the Northwest does not mean that you can’t connect with ACUM. It helps differentiate us from other competitors, and if you believe that you need help in shaping that story, ACUM will provide you with the all the inspiration you need. As the new CEO of Kitsap Credit Union, for the past year I have learned that our history is rich with our purpose of serving the military bases and civilians that help prepare our warships to defend our country. We are drawing on that rich history to better serve our community and I know there are many other credit unions in this area of the country that have similar impactful stories. So be inspired and look to the past to help promote our future.  

Anthem: Why is it important to support the museum and why does it need our support?

Shawn: There is no other resource within the credit union industry that fulfills the role of achieving our history and allowing visitors to be encouraged to be the catalyst for change and promote community prosperity. In all, to allow the museum to continue to add value we would like credit unions to consider a nominal annual donation. A credit union membership would give your organization access to those critical features I mentioned earlier. A membership would grant your credit union unlimited access to the archives, use of the conferencing system and strategic planning space, and much more.

Editor’s Note: This story is part one of a two-part series on America’s Credit Union Museum with Shawn Gilfedder. Look for a second story in next week’s Anthem about the future of the museum.