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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Genealogy Help Desk Volunteers

By: Rebekah Bjork | December 7, 2017

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

Man reading a book while sitting at a table in the library

Recognizing Volunteers

By: Rebekah Bjork | December 1, 2017

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.

Dirty Doc Ames and the Scandal That Shook Minneapolis

By: Rebekah Bjork | December 1, 2017

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 Meaningful Impact of Hill House Volunteers

By: Rebekah Bjork | October 31, 2017
Woman opening door from the inside of the James J. Hill House

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

Friendly Smiles and Warm Welcomes

By: Rebekah Bjork | October 24, 2017

The History Center can be an intimidating building, especially for first time guests and our volunteer Greeters provide a friendly smile and a warm welcome. Our 18 volunteer Greeters have contributed more than 840 hours since January 2017! Most of our guests visit the museum and Greeters recommend favorite exhibits, kid-friendly activities, elevator locations – you name it. Besides museum visits, guests attend library classes, workshops, and lectures. Ask any Greeter their most frequently asked questions is, you got it, “Where are the restrooms?” We all know how important that answer is.

Thank goodness for our Greeters!


Submitted by Merry Prose

Man holds up map brochure while sitting at the information desk at the Minnesota History Center

39,000 Brochures in 56 Hours

By: Rebekah Bjork | October 24, 2017

This summer we had a team of 14 volunteers who helped fill brochures for the Minnesota State Fair History Walking Tour. They contributed more than 56 hours to make sure the brochures stayed filled for the visitors who completed the tour. These volunteers helped distribute more than 39,000 brochures throughout the duration of the State Fair!

Fort Snelling Special Event Volunteers

By: Rebekah Bjork | September 26, 2017

The Minnesota Historical Society’s (MNHS) Special Events volunteer team contributes thousands of hours each year to help support special events and public programming at the Minnesota History Center, Historic Fort Snelling, the Alexander Ramsey House, Mill City Museum, and multiple off-site locations.

Historic Fort Snelling special event volunteers have contributed more than 250 hours since January 2017. Volunteers have helped assist at events like Memorial Day Weekend, July 4 Celebration, World War I Weekend, History on the Go Bus Tours, and CSI Fort Snelling, to name a few. Staff supervisor Tom Lalim said “There's no way we could do what we do without the help of volunteers.”

Thank you to all volunteers who contribute their time, talents, and efforts to make events at Historic Fort Snelling a success!

WW1 Intercept Survey Volunteers Exceeded Goal!

By: Rebekah Bjork | September 26, 2017

WW1 Intercept Survey volunteers were busy this summer surveying Minnesota History Center visitors. Volunteers easily reached the goal of 386 responses, and continued to exceed that goal by collecting 412 responses total!

Staff supervisor Kate Roberts said “Each time we conduct a History Center survey, I'm impressed by the professionalism and commitment of our volunteers. Participants in our recent World War 1 exhibit survey exceeded my expectations. Some were seasoned veterans of the survey routine; others were brand-new surveyors. Their combined enthusiasm and expertise resulted in a record number of surveys completed during a 7-week run. I've said it many times--we couldn't conduct our History Center surveys without our volunteers!”

Summer 2017 Interns

By: Rebekah Bjork | September 26, 2017

The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) Summer Interns were hard at work this summer in numerous departments, including Collections, Development, DICE, Evaluation, Multimedia, Oral History, Public Programs, Web Design, and many more! A group of 30 interns worked across MNHS sites at the Minnesota History Center, Historic Fort Snelling, the Lindbergh House, and Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post. Throughout the Summer 2017 program, these interns contributed more than 4,500 hours!

"I liked that I had one big project that I focused on and took the lead on. Also, everyone I worked with was very welcoming and friendly, and wanted me to succeed."

One summer intern said “I liked the freedom I had within my internship to work on projects that interested me and gave me the chance to gain new skills.” Through the internship program, these students gained professional experience in a particular field of interest, had the opportunity to build relationships and network with staff, and took on projects that contribute to the overall function and goals of MNHS. Another intern stated "I liked that I had one big project that I focused on and took the lead on. Also, everyone I worked with was very welcoming and friendly, and wanted me to succeed."

Thanks to all our summer 2017 interns for their hard work and dedication to MNHS!

War Dogs and Homing Pigeons: HiJinx volunteers were crafty!

By: Rebekah Bjork | September 7, 2017

The summer History Hound HiJinx volunteers who facilitate the Tuesday-Friday art activities in June, July, and August are an essential part of the History Center's hands-on art projects. Their skill set requires them to be organized, self-directed, crafty, and great with people.

Sixteen volunteers were busy assisting visitors with a WW1-themed craft project this summer. These volunteers dedicated their time and talents and contributed more than 280 hours to Summer HiJinx! Staff supervisor Wendy Freshman said “We could not implement this program without these wonderful ambassadors and mini-historians who engage our multi-generational visitors in the exhibit-related art project. (This year WW1 Animal Heroes -- Stubby the War Dog and Cher Ami the homing pigeon.) Hats off to these remarkable volunteers who have been so generous with their time!”

Thank you to all volunteers who helped support this project!