Done By Volunteers & Interns

Done By Volunteers and Interns Blog

Activities and accomplishments of Minnesota Historical Society volunteers and interns


The Minnesota Historical Society's volunteer and intern programs welcome people from all communities to engage in mission-related projects. Over 2,660 volunteers and interns contribute 53,400 hours hours annually. This diverse volunteer corps helps to achieve the MNHS mission — Using the Power of History to Transform Lives.

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Contributing to the MNHS Mission

By: Rebekah Bjork | December 13, 2019

Volunteer Phil has an abiding interest in local and regional history, and has visited many historic sites in Minnesota, including most of the properties administered by MNHS. Through his volunteer work at MNHS, he was able to apply his writing, editing, and photographic skills.

As part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) MNHS has participated in since 2007, we are required to submit a "title essay" to the Library of Congress, along with the digital newspaper files, for each newspaper title selected for digitization. For the 2017-2019 NDNP grant cycle we had 30 newspaper titles that required an essay! Phil wrote a 500 word essay on the American Jewish World newspaper, with a deadline only a few weeks away. He researched the title independently and quickly returned with a concise, interesting, and readable essay. It is not yet posted online, but should be available on both Library of Congress's Chronicling America site and MNHS's Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub landing site within the next few months.

Phil said “I enjoy contributing to the MNHS mission and the broader societal goals of preserving historic sites and educating the public about past lives and events.”


Information provided by staff supervisor Jillian Odland and volunteer Phil.

Learning the Backstory

By: Rebekah Bjork | December 2, 2019

For the past several months, volunteer Teri has been sharing her expertise in marketing and data analysis. She drafted a project to identify a plan for the digitization and promotion of archival collections that will facilitate increased access by a broader set of users. Data from Google Analytics and stakeholder interviews have generated some excellent information about who uses library & archives collections and how they are going about their research journey. "Teri has been absolutely amazing to work with, and I'm thrilled that her passion for history led her to share her skills with MNHS," said staff Wendy Guerra.

Below is a transcript of an interview with Teri about her work.

What are some reasons you started volunteering at the Minnesota Historical Society?

  • My love of history, especially cultural history.  
  • Understanding people's backstory is important to me. Everyone has a journey to who they are today. At work or socially I love to know an individual's journey to where they are today, what they have experienced and learned and do! To me it is as delicious as cake to not only hear others tell their stories but to also see their faces and to be part of their journey. I've learned so much by just asking.  
  • And because history is so valuable and because of these two things listed above I felt it was important for me to contribute to preserving history and making it accessible to others. 

Why have you continued to volunteer at MNHS? 

  • The support is awesome! The volunteer staff and my project supervisor Wendy are always available to answer questions and provide guidance.
  • Feeling appreciated! From their demonstrated encouragement and support I know the entire staff values volunteers.
  • The flexibility to fit my schedule. As a full-time professional and mom of two young kids, having the ability to coordinate a schedule that works is incredibly helpful. 

What have you enjoyed most about your volunteer position?

  • Learning about how history is preserved and the future of making history accessible. 
  • Meeting new people through my work on this project I have met several great people who are as excited about history as I am. As they talk, share their insights and stories only makes me more excited to know them and to volunteer. 
  • The opportunity to leverage my marketing skills in a whole new way! As a marketer by day in business, having the opportunity to leverage these skills for MNHS encourages me to think differently, which is refreshing! 


Submitted by staff Wendy Guerra and volunteer Teri 

Volunteer Shares Multitude of Skills

By: Rebekah Bjork | December 2, 2019

Daryl has been a volunteer at the Jeffers Petroglyphs since 2002. He has assisted with a variety of programs and events over the years, but especially the Atlatl Program in which he showed people how to make and throw darts using atlatls. He has helped with Flintknapping​ events by demonstrating his skills in creating projectile points. He developed and led many homeschool events. He created items to sell in the gift shop such as spears, arrows, atlatls and games. He also created a website, educational materials, and a Buffalo Hunter Certificate that we hand out to visitors. 

Jeffers Petroglyphs has benefited because of the time he has spent preparing materials and sharing his knowledge and skills over the years.

Submitted by staff Pam Jensen

Reflections from a MNHS Volunteer

By: Rebekah Bjork | November 4, 2019

Kseniia is a volunteer at the Minnesota Historical Society in the Business Intelligence and Process Improvement department. Below is a transcript of an interview with her.

Why did you start volunteering at the Minnesota Historical Society?

I made a decision to join the Minnesota Historical Society in July, 2019. Becoming a part of the local community is one of the most exciting parts of my life! I like history, and by looking back to the past in our history, I think we can better understand the present moment and predict our future. History helps us to track our origins and compare past patterns with present and future patterns. Modern technology teaches us new ways to do things. Minnesota Historical Society gave me a great opportunity to join the Business Intelligence and Process Improvement department as a volunteer! I am very grateful for this opportunity! 

Why have you continued to volunteer at MNHS? 

I would like to make an impact! Volunteering gives me a chance to be a part of something bigger than myself and use my knowledge and experience to make a positive result for a whole team. It’s a great possibility in my life and an invaluable experience. Another reason to be a volunteer is to learn new things. By taking the time to learn a new software-program or get more experience in the SCRUM approach, I am opening myself up to new career opportunities.

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer position?

To be a volunteer with Business Intelligence and Process Improvement team is a good way to make business relationships by working together on projects. Volunteering gives me the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, and organization!

A Meaningful Summer at Home in Little Falls

By: Rebekah Bjork | September 12, 2019

Madeline was a summer intern at the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum in Little Falls. She spent half of her time conducting guided tours and the other half of her time conducting research that will be used to build a future public history program. 

Madeline grew up in Little Falls and visited the house many times over the course of her childhood and always wanted to work there. Interning at the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum has been a dream come true for her. Below is a transcript of an interview with her.

Can you share 1 or 2 projects you worked on during your internship that you are proud of?

I split my time as an intern between giving tours and conducting research. The first major project I did was writing my own tour script. I spent a lot of time at first following other interpreters on their tours and reading the book that the majority of the Lindbergh tour is based off of, Boyhood on the Upper Mississippi. It's a collection of letters written by Charles Lindbergh later in his life about his experience growing up in Little Falls. It was really cool to hear directly from Charles about the town I grew up in too. I took a lot of notes on that and also noted things I liked from other interpreters' tours and then fit all of that into the outline of MNHS' vision treatment for tours at the site. I had expected to sort of just be given a script and told to memorize it, so I was excited to find out how much originality and creativity are encouraged. I have loved becoming a storyteller this summer and feeling like the tours I give are a piece of myself as well as of the history I love. My ultimate goal when I take guests into the house is to get them to the point where they can almost see a young Charles standing in the room with them, and I think that at least with some of them I've managed it.

My research project this summer involved creating a source compendium of information on Charles Lindbergh's conservation and environmental efforts in the 1960s and 70s. Eventually this information will be formatted into a public presentation. I like to think I'm sort of laying the foundations. I've compiled a list of all the primary and secondary sources relevant to this topic and have also provided a summary of content for each one, in addition to also  gathering key points, supporting information, and citations. Eventually, all of the most important information on Charles' environmentalism will be contained in this one document I'm working on, so it will be easy to find and access later. I've gone through sections of several books, articles, newspaper clippings, websites, MNHS event project documents from the 90s, and a 1964 edition of Reader's Digest that I found on Ebay. That was one of the most fun parts. 

What did you enjoy most about your internship experience?

My favorite part of my internship has been developing my skills in viewing and sharing history as a story rather than facts. I've learned so much about how to make history real and alive for people of all ages and backgrounds, both through writing and giving my tour and through the direction of my research. The experience has made a huge impact on me and changed the way I think for the better. I study Social Sciences Education in college. Whether I decide to teach in a traditional classroom later or use my degree in other ways, maybe more so in the field of public history, I think I have really learned how to help people form connections with the past and how to sort of turn myself into a facilitator who can help them do that rather than just an instructor. I really feel that I'll be able to do history justice now, wherever I end up in my career. That means a lot to me.

Contributing to Long Term Preservation at the Hill House

By: Rebekah Bjork | September 9, 2019

Cordelia worked at the Hill House as a summer Collections Assistant Intern. She created an inventory of architectural detail and building fragments.This work supports the overall inventory of program use materials. Cordelia identified over 222 unique items which are now cataloged with descriptions, quantities, and locations. Cordelia, learned artifact handling skills, and best practices for inventory through hands on experience. This project is an essential part of long term preservation of the site. Knowledge of the resources we have for research and replication of original architectural and building parts will allow MNHS to continue to learn more about the house itself, and maintain its authenticity now and for generations to come. 

A thank you from Cordelia’s supervisor: The work that Cordelia completed over the summer will have a long term impact on the preservation work at the site and will be an invaluable tool for many years into the future. We are also so grateful Cordelia not only was able to do incredibly detailed work but also had an excellent sense of humor and was willing to work her internship hours where the objects were located which meant many hours working in closets and moving around tour groups. The site is better positioned for the future because of Cordelia! Thank you, Cordelia!

Exploring Family Genealogy

By: Rebekah Bjork | September 6, 2019

Pam is a volunteer at the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota History Center working in the Hubbs Microfilm Room. To date, Pam has contributed 6 years of service and reached more than 1,000 volunteer service hours. 

As someone who used to work in family history, volunteering at MNHS allowed Pam to continue what she loves to do, research and helping others explore family genealogy. Recently, Pam helped a library patron find a newspaper article about her biological mother. This individual was separated from her parents at a young age and came to the Gale Family Library hoping to find more information about her family.

Every week when Pam comes in to volunteer, she is able to help patrons discover new information. Sharing the excitement of finding new information with patrons makes Pam happy. She also enjoys helping patrons think out of the box and directing them to new resources. Pam finds it rewarding to help individuals explore genealogy and discover new information, that is why she continues to volunteer with MNHS.

Thank you, Pam, for your dedication to MNHS as a volunteer!


Military and Citizen Service Day at Fort Snelling

By: Rebekah Bjork | September 6, 2019

On Saturday, August 3 four special events volunteers spent their facilitating activities at Fort Snelling’s Military and Citizen Service Day. The event was aimed to help visitors learn about the meaning of citizenship and service and how it has transformed over time. Service-focused tours were offered throughout the day, highlighting those who served at Fort Snelling and how the fort has changed from 1820 to 1946. 

Our wonderful volunteers managed the “make-it take it” activity table and showed visitors how to make soldier garrison hats. MNHS has a variety of special events throughout the year, and these events would not be a success without the help of dedicated volunteers.


Reflections from a MNHS Intern

By: Rebekah Bjork | August 2, 2019

Kyle was the Evaluation Intern for 3 semesters at the Minnesota Historical Society. Below is a transcript of an interview with him.

Why did you apply for an internship at MNHS?

I applied for this internship for a few reasons, both professional and personal. Professionally, I have a lot of appreciation for MNHS as one of the most-respected state history institutions in the country and for its recent initiatives to tell a broad range of stories that have previously gone unrecognized. As a student of public history who would like to remain in Minnesota in my career, MNHS was a perfect fit. Specific to evaluation, I had experience on the front end of public history in archives, exhibits, and interpretation, but wanted to learn more about how exhibit, program, and site management staff determine the success of their initiatives and adjust accordingly.

Can you share 1 or 2 projects you worked on during your internship that you are proud of?

I am quite proud of all the work I did at Historic Fort Snelling last summer and into the fall. I conducted visitor intercept surveys for their general visitor program, a special event with Michael Twitty, and a prototype exhibit on soldiers' day-to-day lives at the fort. I also cleaned, coded, and analyzed that data a created reports which I presented before several of the staff members at the Fort and central MNHS. I've had the opportunity to do similar things for a few programs, create reports for nearly all the sites, and have presented for the staff at the Lindbergh House and the Mille Lacs Indian Museum as well as the staff and volunteers who contributed to Somalis + Minnesota. I've really learned a lot, both about evaluation and about what visitors value in their experiences. I also did a near total rework of the evaluation site on Fletcher, which was a completely different and valuable experience for me.

Where do you work now and how did your internship prepare you for this job?

I am currently working as a contractor for the MNHS evaluation team and am stationed at the Oliver Kelley Farm and the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum (where I actually had my first experience working for MNHS leading tours of the home three years ago). My internship directly prepared me for me current role, as I'm doing similar work to what I did as an intern. They've given me experience working in several museum settings, helped me develop a strong network, and given me the opportunity to see exhibits and programs through the eyes of thousands of visitors.

Praise from Kyle’s supervisor:

“Kyle became an indispensable part of the evaluation team, helping with whatever task at hand was. He was a quick learner, had excellent attention to detail and did exemplary work. He had excellent rapport with visitors and staff alike. He even helped provide training to the new Fort Snelling intern at the end of his final semester. His willingness to commute from St. Cloud for all 3 semesters of his internship speaks to his professionalism, dedication and passion for the field. He will undoubtedly make a huge contribution in his career.” 

Internships Designed for Learning

By: Rebekah Bjork | July 24, 2019

MNHS Press Design Interns Pader (MCAD class of 2018) and Amelia (Gustavus class of 2020) got a chance to assist MNHS Press staff with editorial support and print production, and learned about the marketing and design of publications. Both also created quality spot illustrations for upcoming MNHS Press title _Closing Time_ during their spring 2019 internships. Both interns created portfolio-worthy pieces while they worked on a variety of projects for the department.