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collections up close Blog

Collecting pieces of Minnesota's past for the future


The Minnesota Historical Society preserves and makes available a wide range of materials chronicling Minnesota's history and culture. The goals of the Collections Department are to collect and preserve; provide access and interpretation; and engage in education and outreach. This blog is a tool to share these stories and let people know what is happening in the department.

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Runes of the North by Sigurd Olson

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 18, 2017
book cover

Minnesota author Sigurd Olson was a passionate leader in conservation and wilderness preservation, with a particularly strong connection to the Boundary Waters. This book of essays was originally published in 1963, the same year he became vice-president of The Wilderness Society.

Runes of the North by Sigurd Olson. New York: Knopf, 1963.

"Teutons Keep Up Drive On Italians" and "U.S. War Council Created" - Freeborn County Standard. December 17, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 17, 2017

"Allies Form Naval Council" and "Two Lightless Nights" - The Daily People's Press. December 16, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 16, 2017

"To Enroll Men for War Work" and "The Negro in the War" - The Twin City Star. December 15, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 15, 2017

Victorian Christmas Ornament

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 15, 2017

This ornament is made of tinsel and wire in the shape of a woman with an umbrella. She has a molded glass head; the body and umbrella are made of wire covered with tinsel. The manufacturer is unknown; it was used in Minneapolis, circa 1890.

See more ornaments in Collections Online.

David Backus Looks Forward to A Promotion

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 14, 2017

David Backus describes an uneventful day of training in his diary, but looks forward to officially accepting and taking the oath for his position as First Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. He also describes target practice and the arrival of a comrade, Stuffy, from his pilot training at Tours, France.


Backus diary page

Friday Dec. 14-1917,
Well went out to traps[,] did rotton - 4 out of 15 - then got 10 goose eggs - worse - will have to [ba...]. Laid around all aft. Got [...] from War Dept First Lieutenacy in USA. We take our Oaths and accept tomorrow. Rained this aft. Stuffy [...] came in from Tours.

Citation: David Backus Collection. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 123.D.10.6F

Early Candleight: a novel

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 14, 2017
book cover

This book by Maud Hart Lovelace is not part of the well-known and much-loved Betsy-Tacy series, but rather an historical novel about life at Fort Snelling. 

Learn more about Maud Hart Lovelace.

Watch on the Atlantic: Diary of Edward Gilkey

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 13, 2017

Edward Gilkey describes in his diary the continued progess of his journey across the Atlantic, and changes in the weather. In this diary entry Gilkey describes standing on guard with another company from an African American regiment. Gilkey's description of his interaction with another soldier, in which he swindles this soldier with his watch, and his justifications for these actions, give some insight into the state of race relations during this time. More than 350,000 African Americans served during World War I, and they often faced discrimination, even from their fellow soldiers.


Churchill in Minnesota

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 13, 2017
Churchill photo

The opening of the movie Darkest Hour made me wonder; did Winston Churchill ever visit Minnesota? It turns out yes, he did, as a young MP in 1901. This photo seen here from our collection is from 1940; there are no photos from the 1901 visit. 

Learn more in this Minnesota History article.

"Great Drive by Huns Expected" and "Lightless Nights May Come" - The Daily People's Press. December 12, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 12, 2017