Collections Up Close

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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Traditional Foods beaded placemat and napkin ring

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 14, 2019

This beaded placemat, birchbark napkin ring, and red napkin is titled, "Traditional Foods." Made by Terri Hom, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, who worked as an apprentice to the Native American Artist-in-Residence, Jessica Gokey. Jessica's statement about the placemat: "I was inspired by the Mille Lacs Ojibwe beaded velvet tablemat (ID Number 67.230.357) in the MHS collections and by 'Sioux Chef,' Sean Sherman's use of traditional foods in his cooking. Terri's statement about the birchbark beaded napkin ring: "I was inspired by Rita Walaszek, MHS Collections Assistant and the Ojibwe large beaded napkin rings (ID Number 8890.23.1,2) in the MHS collections."

Lake Superior

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 11, 2019

This oil painting is simply titled "Lake Superior." It was created by Orlando Lagman in 1885. 

Ojibwe carved wooden ladle

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 10, 2019

This carved wooden spoon was collected by Frances Densmore at the Grand Portage Reservation, Minnesota. The date "May 1927" is carved on the stem, just above the bowl of the spoon.

This spoon was used specifically for removing fish from hot oil or grease.

Passenger steamer leaving Duluth-Superior Harbor, 1935

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 9, 2019

This postcard shows a passenger steamer leaving Duluth-Superior Harbor in 1935.

"A new map of part of the United States of North America...

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 8, 2019

A new map of part of the United States of North America...exhibiting the Western Territory, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia &c., also the Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario & Erie, with upper and lower Canada. 

From the latest authorities by John Cary, engraver, 1805.
A very long title for a very beautiful map! 

Church Group, 1942

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 4, 2019

March For Our Lives protest signs

By: Lori Williamson | Collections Up Close | October 3, 2019

On March 7, 2018, students from the Saint Paul and Minneapolis public school systems left class, gathered outside Central High School in Saint Paul, and marched twenty blocks down Marshall Avenue toward the State Capitol. This protest was in reaction to the shooting of 17 high school students, teachers, and administrators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018. The feeling amongst protestors was raw, unfiltered, and angry. Students had had enough of “thoughts and prayers,” and called for legislative change on both the local and national level. 


This protest was the first of many in Minnesota, organized through a Facebook group and word-of-mouth, resulting in thousands of attendees. According to CBS Minnesota, about 5,000 students were part of the walkout (1). The vast majority of attendees were students carrying signs and chanting in the street, most marching in support of stricter gun laws. A  2018 graduate of Central High School and member of the Minnesota Historical Society’s Teen Action Group collected signs at the event (2). Recognizing that the signs and the moment itself were historically important, he donated them to the Society.


The signs expressed messages including “No More Silence, End Gun Violence,” “Protect Our Students,” “We Call BS,” and “Schools are for Learning, Not Lockdowns.” Handmade on poster board and cardboard and designed with markers, tape, and glue, each sign was a visual representation of the student’s feelings at the protest. In contrast to the majority of attendees, one counter-protester’s sign referenced the Castle Doctrine (3), the idea that a defendant can use deadly force in self defense when the defendant is in their own home. The interactions between the counter-protester and the other students were tense, but remained respectful. 


Following the March 7th protest, students gathered again on March 14th for a moment of silence, which centered on grief, rather than the anger of the initial protest. On March 24th the national March For Our Lives, a student-led protest calling for tighter gun control laws, was held in Washington, D.C.. Satellite events took place throughout the United States, including one held in the Twin Cities. The march was heavily broadcast and supported by world-famous celebrities, bringing much greater national attention to the cause of gun control. 


Despite not being old enough to vote in elections, students have had an immense impact on the national conversation about gun control. These students are part of a rich historical tradition of protests and walkouts, one that includes students from Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia, who marched for Civil Rights, those from Birmingham, Alabama, who were part of the Children’s Crusade, and the high schoolers from East Los Angeles, California, who protested for Chicano recognition and rights. The response to the Parkland shooting by students throughout the United States is the most recent example of the impact that youth protest can have on US history.

Suzanne Rubinstein

Summer 2018 Curatorial Assistant Intern



1.  “Thousands Of Students March To Capitol Building, Demand Gun Control.” WCCO | CBS Minnesota. March 07, 2018. Accessed August 27, 2018.

2. Year-long internship for high school students to introduce them to the world of museums and representation of communities in museums.

3.  Castle Doctrine is, “An exception to a rule in place in some jurisdictions that requires a defendant to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense. The castle exception states that if a defendant is in his home, he is not required to retreat prior to using deadly force in self defense.” “Castle Doctrine.” LII / Legal Information Institute. November 20, 2014. Accessed August 15, 2018.


Bolt of Fabric

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 3, 2019

It's Hispanic Heritage Month!
This bolt of cloth, showing ornamental designs of skulls and flowers in black on pink, was designed in 2010 by Uno Hispanic Branding of Minneapolis.

Presidential Campaign Button

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 2, 2019

It's Hispanic Heritage Month!
This is a Presidential campaign button for Hubert H. Humphrey's 1968 run. It reads "Puerto Rico is always with" in Spanish. 

Quinceañera Decoration

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 1, 2019

It's Hispanic Heritage Month!
This is a hand-cut and decorated Styrofoam decoration for a quinceañera, which is a party held in celebration of a young woman's 15th birthday. The decoration was cut with a hot knife to include the silhouette of a crescent moon, a young woman in profile, and other floral and leaf-shaped motifs. It was sold by the artist at Our Lady Of Guadalupe Church in the West Side neighborhood of Saint Paul, Minnesota, circa 1999.