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 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. 

Weekend Farmer

By: Rebekah Bjork | July 18, 2019

Volunteer Gopal has been working hard during this hot Minnesota summer at the Oliver Kelley Farm in Elk River. With his skills in gardening and trail management he is a wonderful asset to the team at the farm!

Gopal moved to Minnesota during the summer of 2017 from San Diego. He wanted to learn more about the history of a place he would soon call home, leading him to the Minnesota Historical Society. What seemed like a one-time summer volunteer opportunity, to learn more about Minnesota, actually turned into something more valuable. The friendships Gopal has built on the farm and the enjoyment of doing some outdoor labor brought Gopal back for another season of volunteering on the farm. 

Another thing Gopal enjoys is going home and telling his 4-year-old son tales about what the animals did and what other kids said at the farm. With such fascinating stories, without a doubt, Gopal’s son believes his dad is a weekend farmer. 


137 Boxes and 13,000 Envelopes

By: Rebekah Bjork | April 19, 2019

This month State Archives volunteers completed the re-housing of 137 boxes of Ramsey County District Court criminal case files dated 1858-1930. The documents were contained in over 13,000 file envelopes, and housed in boxes. The records were received many years ago, and were difficult for our researchers use. Starting in August 2017 our volunteers removed the documents from the envelopes, unfolded the documents, and cut from the envelopes any relevant information. Each case file's documents were placed in bond folder, and then several bond folders were housed in an archival quality folder. The old boxes were discarded with the documents then housed in our boxes.  

Now that the Ramsey County District Court criminal case files are unfolded and housed in archival quality folders their preservation is prolonged. And researchers can now easily use the documents without opening a dirty envelope and unfolding the documents to view. The unfolding and unfolding of the documents eventually would damage even the high quality paper documents. Early in the project our volunteers found 3D objects like wallets, coins, bullets and more that were evidence in the criminal cases. The practice of including evidence in the case files was eventually discontinued, and only a few 3D objects were found.

The case files are accessed using a name index that was created by the court at the time the case files were created. We have two groups of State Archives volunteers. The first group of 8-10 volunteers work two mornings a month. The other group of 10 volunteers are from the Women's Organization of the Minnesota Historical Society (WOMNHS) and work one morning a month. We're very grateful to our volunteers as they help us better preserve and provide improved access to the collections in the State Archives. Next project? A mere 92 boxes of Fergus Falls State Hospital commitment papers dated 1890-1967 which are tri-folded in envelopes. Stay tuned for updates!

Our Volunteers are Stars

By: Rebekah Bjork | April 19, 2019

Earlier last week, a group of 3M employees from their Native American network volunteered their time for MNHS. They put together 2,000 bandolier bags in just 30 minutes! These bags will be mailed out to teachers across the country.

They also painted lettering on 70 stars that will be used for the First Avenue Exhibit opening. The Women's Organization of MNHS finished painting the stars yesterday! One of our long-time volunteers, Skip, cut and whitewashed the stars himself.

Thank you, 3M employees and Skip!

History Rabbit Hole

By: Rebekah Bjork | April 10, 2019

MNopedia volunteers and interns have published fifteen articles so far this fiscal year, with a several more in the works!

The efforts of our MNopedia volunteers have helped us reach the following milestones:

  • October 2018: the MNopedia website hit the 1 millionth unique user mark
  • February 2019: MNopedia reached not only 3 million page views but also more than 1.5 million unique sessions on our website
  • MNopedia will be able to launch Phase I of the Minnesota Place Names project as scheduled by the end of June, then it will be on to Phase II: Lakes, Rivers, and Streams.

So, for the countless trips they took down the History Rabbit Hole and their many valued contributions to MNopedia . . . Thank you, MNopedia volunteers and interns!

MLK Weekend

By: Rebekah Bjork | January 28, 2019

The Minnesota Historical Society’s Special Events team helped make the MLK Weekend activities at the Minnesota History Center a success.

6 volunteers assisted with registration, ushering, wayfinding, snack rooms, and service projects for the Together We Sing Festival on Saturday, January 19.

Thank you, volunteers, for helping make the event a success!