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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Rocks and Water

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 13, 2018

This photograph is of a group of men seated on a rock overlooking rapids in the United States-Canadian Boundary Waters (which we know better as the BWCA) in 1935. Spectacular, isn't it? This week's theme is water, in all its glory!

See it in Collections Online.

"French are Driving to Flank Roye on Two Sides; Somme Battle on Again" and "American Fists Too Hard Hitting for German Foe" - Bemidji Daily Pioneer. August 13, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 13, 2018

Doctor's Canvas Trunk

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 12, 2018

This canvas trunk belonged to Justus Ohage Jr. of St. Paul, Minnesota, who served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Medical Corps. It is 14 inches tall, 28 inches wide and 18 1/2 inches deep. He carried this trunk with him until he was discharged on this date. This day also marks the end of the Battle of Amiens, known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which is widely considered to be the "beginning of the end" of World War I. This battle marked the end of trench warfare on the Western Front, with the fighting now back to being mobile, allowing progress to be made.


Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 1998.347.1.

"I Sure Am Homesick For A Letter"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 11, 2018

Private Carl Williams wrote a letter home to his family on this day. He talks about how he has recently landed in France and hopes to receive a letter from someone soon. Williams was instantly killed in action on September 15th, 1918 a little over a month after this letter was written.


Dun. Aug. 11-18
Dear Cousin-
[…] We are stopping in an old French village now which must have been a beautiful place before the war but the inhabitants have left and some of the buildings are destroyed. France is sure a pretty country in summer, the harvest in on here now but you would laugh to see how it is done, mostly by hand tho [sic] I have seen a few binders and mowers. I suppose you are harvesting also by this time. […] I wrote you just after I landed in France but so far have not had a letter from you or anyone. I sure am homesick for a letter from someone so please write soon as it takes a long time to get here. […]
Greet everyone from me and please write soon your cousin
Pvt. C. O. Williams

Citation: "Williams, Carl O." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota 114.D.7.1B

"British Break Teuton Forces in Two Drives" and "Gaining Ground on Vesle River" - The Daily People's Press. August 10, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 10, 2018

Woman learning about edible mushrooms

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 10, 2018

This photo is of a woman learning about edible mushroom in 1938. It comes from the Minneapolis and St. Paul Newspaper Negative Collection.

See it in Collections Online.

Travelling to Europe with the Red Cross

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 9, 2018

In this letter for her family, Helen Scriver writes about the steamer that she rode overseas. She says that this particular steamer is superior to all of the other steamers she has been on and mentions the immigrants that she has met from riding on the steamer. Scriver also mentions the woman who is in charge of her group, a Mrs. Fisher, who she describes as efficient and non-interfering. Scriver gives details about her uniform and a story of the officer at the entrance of the boat forgetting to check of her name causing confusion on board.


August 9, 1918 [...] Our accomodations are excellent. Being a traveler, and knowing this steamer is superior to either of the two which carried me to and from Europe in 1914. [...] The lady in charge of our group is a Mrs. Fisher from Santa Barba, California. If I had had the appointment to make I too would have chosen Mrs. Fisher. She is splendid efficient, and non interfering. [...] Quite a few of our do not seem to have the slightest comprehension of what not wearing jewelry might be thought to mean. One girl, whose uniform will be ready in Paris came on in a georgette waist and a string of large gold beads around her neck. It looked rather silly when the rest of us were choking in high collars and military uniforms with the thermometer up over 100.[...]
Wishing that you all might be along,

Citation: Helen Scriver Papers Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P362

Mushroom Hat

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 9, 2018

This navy blue straw mushroom hat was made in Italy, sold at Field-Schlick of Saint Paul, and worn by Harriette Weyerhaeuser in the 1940s. It features a wide, wavy brim, flat crown, and two velvet prongs that hold the hat in place. There is also a long velvet bow attached to the top.

See different views of it in Collections Online.

"Where the Houses Have No Roofs and the German Helmets are Lying on the Ground"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 8, 2018

In this letter home to her parents, Marion Backus tells of the new place she is heading to in France. She describes it as the place where the homes have no roofs and where the German helmets are lying around everywhere on the ground. She also writes about her excitement to work/give aid to patients that she can talk to and understand what they want. Backus is following the front and is able to give aid to wounded American soldiers.


Aug 8- 1918
Dear Folks
We are traveling again today always on the move. We are going up where the houses have no roofs and where the german helmets are lying around on the ground we expect to camp in a barnyard […] We will live in tents and be among Americans only it is going to such [sic] a relief to not have to work with people that you can't talk to or know what they want. [...]
Love to all,

Citation: Marion Backus Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1356

Untamed Mushrooms

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 8, 2018

This new book from the Minnesota Historical Society Press details how to find and prepare wild mushrooms. It is beautiful but will make you hungry! 

Available in stores and in our Library.