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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Happy Kwanzaa!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 26, 2019

Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, a festival observed by many African Americans to celebrate their cultural heritage and traditional values.
This cloth doll was made by Phyllis Chatham of Minneapolis using mainly African fabrics. She holds a sign that reads "KWANZAA" which is suspended from the arms with ribbon.

Merry Christmas!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas to all!
This single-sided Christmas card has an illustration of a cat wearing a bell and an Elizabethan-style ruff. The text "Wishing you a Merry Christmas" is printed above the cat's head; below it is the anonymous Christmas verse, "Hang sorrow! Care will kill a cat / And therefore let's be merry," lifted in part from dialogue used in Ben Jonson's 1598 play "Every Man in His Humour" (Act I, Scene III). The cat's ruff is probably a reference to these Elizabethan origins. 
The card is from 1878.


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 24, 2019

This photo shows children waiting for Santa Claus in front of stocking-hung chimney on Christmas Eve, 1940.


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 23, 2019

This blown glass Christmas ornament is decorated with crinkled and bent tinsel wire, circa 1870-1920.


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 20, 2019

This photograph shows Christmas carolers in a hospital ward in 1937.

A Christmas Carol

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 19, 2019

William Edgar founded the magazine "The Bellman" in Minneapolis in 1906. "The Bellman" would often do special holiday printed pieces; this one is "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, along with other holiday appropriate material added by Edgar and illustrated by John Leech.
It was published in 1925.

Dayton's Box

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 18, 2019

This Dayton's Christmas gift box has a red base and lid printed with holiday phrases and images.

It was created and used in 1965 - 1966.

Christmas Card

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 17, 2019

This Christmas card was made by artists David and Lolita Granahan. The front depicts a tree with strings of multicolor lights on a blue background; the interior has a holiday greeting. It was made between 1963 - 1974.

Irv Williams's Sax

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 16, 2019

We were very sorry to hear of the passing of renown saxophonist Irv Williams over the weekend at age 100. 
Known to many as "Mr. Smooth," the Society acquired a saxophone from him a few years ago. It is currently on display as part of the Greatest Generation exhibit at the History Center. 

Bradstreet Commode, c. 1905-1913

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 13, 2019

A new small exhibit opens in the Library Lobby this week celebrating Minnesota History, the Magazine! Item of the Day will feature something that was both in the magazine and is now on view all week. The Library is free and open to the public; come take a look!

This is a jin-di-sugi cabinet (commode is another word for cabinet) constructed of cypress, but painted to resemble driftwood. It was created by local designer John S. Bradstreet, who was active in the Arts and Crafts movement.