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.
In November of 2016, the editorial work on the manuscript for Marcia Anderson’s A Bag Worth a Pony: The Art of the Ojibwe Bandolier Bag was nearing completion—but crucial images were missing. Volunteer photographer James of Castle Productions came to the rescue! He and Anderson, a former MNHS curator, went on an epic trip across Minnesota to document beadwork and bead artists around the state. The dynamic duo drove from Minneapolis to Little Falls (photo shoot at Morrison County Historical Society) to Cass Lake (photo shoot of bead artist Mel Losh) and stayed the night, then drove to Grand Portage (photo shoot of bead artist Ellen Olson), and dodged a major snowstorm by pushing on to Cloquet, where they stayed another night, then did a photo shoot of several bags owned by the Fond du Lac Band, then sprinted home to the Twin Cities. The storm forced the rescheduling of the last leg of the trip, to Mille Lacs, which took place in December (photo shoot of several bags and of bead artist Cheryl Minnema). At each stop, Jim, a professional commercial photographer, set up his portable lights and sophisticated digital photography equipment, ensuring clear and beautiful images. The bead artists and the bag owners received copies of the photos.
Marcia and the Press are deeply grateful for Jim’s excellent photos—and his willingness to devote days of travel and image cleanup to this important project, which showcases thirty years of Anderson’s research, the work of the bead artists, and the spectacular bags at MNHS and elsewhere. The book has received many positive reviews and is a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award.
Submitted by Ann Regan
This holiday season was busy at the Minnesota History Center with a holiday-themed photo booth opportunity. Volunteers helped visitors check-out photo booth props, as well as take pictures with the visitors’ phones or cameras. Volunteers also helped promote for the 1968 Exhibit by encouraging people to post pictures on their social media pages using hashtags: #1968Exhibit or #MNHistoryCenter.
A group of 10 volunteers assisted with this event by helping more than 60 hours from November-January. Most shifts, the volunteers averaged 30-40 visitors who asked for photos, and some days more than 100 visitors stopped by!
Thanks to our wonderful volunteers who helped capture memories for Minnesota History Center visitors this holiday season!
The Alexander Ramsey House volunteers were at it again this year! 33 volunteers contributed more than 350 hours as cider servers, carriage house greeters, and piano players for the Ramsey Holiday programs in November and December.
Ramsey House staff said “Volunteers were spectacular. We are very appreciative of them because they do such a great job.”
Andy and Alex are a terrific father-son volunteer duo. They're the Batman and Robin of coat check. Coats, purses, and mittens are safe under their guarded supervision in Gotham (aka the History Center), nothing gets by them. They clearly enjoy spending time at the History Center together since they've been working as a coat check team for more than 10 years and request to work together every year on the same day. It's part of their holiday tradition and MNHS reaps the benefits! They engage with guests, eagerly go out of their way to help, never get cross or lose energy, even on those busy days when we see over 1,000 guests - they don't even stop for lunch. Supervisor Merry Prose said “When I think of the Sunday after Christmas I can't help but think of Andy and Alex!”
Submitted by Merry Prose
"It takes someone really special to work as an Education Greeter. The job is definitely not for the faint of heart. Our Education volunteers greet groups, wrangle kids off buses, give orientations, establish our behavior expectations, redirect wayward students, help steer students into our lunch spaces, assist confused chaperones and teachers, get groups organized for lessons and so much more. On days when we have 400 6th graders arriving all at once or 1300 kids visiting for the day, our Education volunteers are critical. They manage the chaos and cacophony of our field trip operations and they do it with humor, fun, and incredible kindness towards the kids. It is not hyperbole to say that we could not do our jobs without them!"
Submitted by Katie McKee
Minnesota Historical Society volunteers were busy this year over the annual Double Discount Days, December 7-10. Volunteers dedicated numerous hours to wrapping more than 400 gifts and packages for visitors. Staff supervisor Meta Bloomberg stated “We couldn’t do it without them.”
Thanks to our volunteers for successfully “wrapping” up Double Discount Days!
For over 20 years the Library has been very fortunate to have a skilled and dedicated group of volunteers known as the Genealogy Help Desk volunteers. They work at the Genealogy Help Desk and support the reference staff in assisting the many researchers who use the Library for family history/genealogy research.
Family history research is a popular research topic at the Library. The Library has worked with the genealogy community throughout the years and in coordination with them developed the Genealogy Help Desk. The goals were to provide assistance to individuals beginning their research and needing more assistance in getting started than can often be provided by the reference staff. The volunteers wanted to support the Library and share their skills and interest in family history research.
Also, the volunteers help researchers who were having trouble locating a “long lost” relative or consulting about resources at other libraries/archives. The volunteers are experienced researchers in family history, many with genealogy research training, certification, and special areas of interest. Their knowledge, expertise, and assistance are appreciated by the Library staff and the numerous family history researchers who visit the Library.
At this time there are eight volunteers who share their time and knowledge. All are enthusiastic and consciousness volunteers. We have several who have been with us almost from the start of the program and several new volunteers have recently joined us. The volunteers are: Tom, Michael, Jim, Pam, Penny, Susan, Marilyn, and Sara. They’re always happy to help!
Jim, Marilyn, Susan, and Tom have all been volunteering for more than 15 years!
Submitted by Brigid Shields
Minnesota Historical Society volunteers and interns contribute thousands of hours, a plethora of talents and skills, and unlimited amounts of knowledge.
In efforts to show appreciation for MNHS volunteers and interns, Volunteers & Intern Services hosted a Volunteer Recognition Event in October. We were fortunate enough to have author and Minnesota native, Carolyn Porter, in attendance to discuss her book Marcel’s Letters, and hold a Q&A session and a book signing.
Volunteers and interns filled the 3M Auditorium to hear Carolyn speak about her book. Discussion was lively and showed the vast variety of interests and knowledge of the MNHS volunteer and intern base. Afterwards, volunteers and interns were able to enjoy the company of one another, as well as members of the MNHS Executive Leadership Team and MNHS employees.
Thanks to all who made this a successful event, and thanks to MNHS volunteers and interns for your contributions, commitments, and efforts to live out the mission and values of MNHS.
Next spring, the Minnesota Historical Society Press will publish Dirty Doc Ames and the Scandal That Shook Minneapolis, a book by Erik Rivenes. It’s the story of a mayor whose corrupt dealings were exposed in 1902 by a grand jury and in several sensational trials. But Erik and his editor, Ann Regan, were having trouble understanding how the newspapers could publish such lavishly detailed stories of the grand jury proceedings. It is illegal for grand jurors to disclose any of the jury’s transactions--evidence, the words of a juror, or votes. But the laws in effect in 1902 did not seem to address their leaking of both evidence and testimony.
The Minnesota law library would probably hold the answer, but neither Erik nor Ann has any experience in legal research.
Volunteer Penny to the rescue! With very little notice, Penny, an attorney who regularly volunteers at the reference library’s genealogy desk, spent some time at the law library and found both the state law (placed in an entirely different chapter of the law) and case law that validated it: the leaks were highly illegal. This allowed the author to speculate on why the prosecutor may not have wanted to charge the jurors—and it’s yet another layer of outrageousness in this story of jaw-dropping skulduggery.
The author revised the text, the book stayed on schedule, and we’ll be sending Penny a copy next March, with our thanks.
Submitted by Ann Regan 11/29/2017
The event assistants at the James J. Hill House are a vital part of the evening event operations. They are on the frontline of customer service from greeting and welcoming visitors when they first arrive to thanking them for coming and reminding them to watch their step when they depart. The enthusiasm they bring to their work revitalizes staff and makes them even more excited to work with them every day. Their assistance with plating, serving, and cleaning up refreshments, and their help with vacuuming and moving tables and chairs allows the tour guides and the manager greater freedom and flexibility for other tasks that come up during the evening.
MNHS volunteers allow us to further our collective goal of preserving, sharing, and connecting people to the past through their gifts of themselves and their time. Their willingness to give has a meaningful impact on improving the health and vibrancy of our community.
Submitted by Jessica Sutherland