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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Self-Motivated High School Student Gains Experience

By: Rebekah Bjork | June 12, 2018

Naya is a high school senior who recently completed an internship with our Collections Department. Naya’s work included researching back issues of the MNHS scholarly journal Minnesota History for references to MNHS Collection items and cross referencing that data with queries in our complex museum cataloging database to create a spreadsheet of linked data. She also worked hands on with the Collection, scanning paper items for use in our collections database and applying metadata to the images. Additionally, Naya has shadowed staff working in our Textile Conservation Lab and and met one-on-one with many staff members across the organization to learn more about the many professions within museum work.

Staff supervisor Sondra Reierson said “Naya has been a joy to work with. I have developed a very high regard for Naya based on her outstanding contributions throughout the term. Throughout her time here Naya has acted professionally, been timely and respectful. She consistently delivers a quality product with speed, accuracy, and thoroughness, managing her time well throughout. Naya learned quickly during her training and has since worked independently but asked pertinent questions as they arose and asked for help as necessary. She is self-motivated and shows great initiative in meeting her goals. In short, Naya has been an ideal intern.”


Submitted by Sondra Reierson 06/01/2018

Valuable Volunteer

By: Rebekah Bjork | June 1, 2018

Pete has been volunteering with the Minnesota Historical Society since March 2018. So far, he has contributed more than 90 hours! Pete has assisted with History Day, Special Events, and primarily serves as a Data Collector for the History Center exit surveys.

Recently, Pete assisted with an event at Historic Fort Snelling. Staff supervisor Caitlin McGowan said “Pete was so wonderful to have on hand. He was proactive and positive all day long, which really helped me as we had to troubleshoot a few scenarios. I could not be more grateful for his presence.”

One of the main projects Pete is working on is data collection for the History Center exit surveys. Staff supervisor Sheila Brommel said “In this important project, he stops visitors and interviews them to learn who is visiting the History Center, what motivated them to visit, and what their experience was like. Pete has a natural ability to engage with visitors by asking them to participate in a survey. He is able to get visitors to expand in depth to the questions. He digs deeper to find out specifically what they liked about an exhibit, or what they didn't like about parking, for example.  He is able to do this because he genuinely cares about what visitors have to say. He has familiarized himself with the exhibits and other spaces, so he understands what they are referring to and can ask them to elaborate.

“Pete recently expanded his role to also co-facilitate the training of new volunteers to conduct a similar survey at Mill City Museum. This was the first time we formally included a volunteer as a co-facilitator and it worked well. The new volunteers appreciated hearing the tips and suggestions directly from one of their peers.

“Pete and the other survey volunteers are making an invaluable contribution to our evaluation efforts. It's vitally important to hear directly from our visitors. We wouldn't be able to do this work without their help.”

Pete said “The number of staff who have valued and treated me so well at MNHS just grows and grows, motivating me to contribute more whenever I can.”

Seeing the "Big Picture"

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 29, 2018

Volunteer Karen is a former assistant principal and retired executive director of the Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation. She came to the Minnesota Historical Society in 2014 to meet people and get involved in her new community.

Throughout her time at MNHS, she has worked on the Special Events team, assisted the Volunteer & Intern Programs with strategic planning, worked as a data collector for the Toys exhibit, served as a member of the Service Enterprise Advisory Committee, conducted evaluation interviews with skills-based volunteers and wrote the summary report, and helps personalize and send new volunteer packets as part of the on-boarding process.

Karen has an extraordinary ability to analyze details and see the “big picture.” Her quick wit always adds fun to our days!

Thanks, Karen, for all you do for MNHS!

College Groups worked to Re-House Inmate Case Files

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 29, 2018

Pictured above: The University of Northwestern group

Recently, we’ve had three groups of college students from Macalester College, the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, and the University of Northwestern, who worked to re-house contents of boxes of the St. Cloud State Reformatory inmate case files.

The University of Minnesota brought nine first-year students to work on re-foldering St. Cloud State Reformatory inmate case files. The University of Northwestern group has been coming to the Minnesota History Center once a year for the past nine years. This year, they also worked on re-foldering records from the St. Cloud State Reformatory inmate case files.

The group of students from Macalester College started in February 2018. Staff supervisor Charlie Rodgers stated “Again, I was very pleased with the work the Macalester students did for the State Archives. I estimate during their several weeks of work, they re-housed the contents of 25 boxes of St. Cloud State Reformatory inmate case files. They did accurate work and were a pleasure to work with.”

Thank you to students from Macalester College, the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, and the University of Northwestern for the continuous support you provide to the State Archives at the Minnesota Historical Society!

MNopedia All-star

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 10, 2018

MNopedia volunteer Mary has been one of our most dedicated and prolific researcher-writers since she started working with the project back in January of 2016. She has published eight articles to date covering a range of topics from horticulture to state parks and to pop culture icons such as the Hamm's Bear, SPAM, and Burma-Shave. Her Burma-Shave article has formed the basis of a the first MNopedia podcast from Historical Markers Media, Inc., a new partner for our project. Seven of her articles have been chosen to be featured on MinnPost.

Watch MNopedia for more articles from this talented volunteer! Mary is now digging deep into research on the flu epidemic of 1918, and reports being pulled down yet another history rabbit hole after discovering an interesting, little-known story about leprosy in Minnesota.

Handyman Volunteer

By: Rebekah Bjork | March 22, 2018

Recently Skip worked with FMD staff and the store staff on an out-of-the-ordinary project for the Sights Store at the History Center. The store employees realized that slim, flat merchandise had been slipping down, over the years, into the air register grilles in the ledges under the outside windows. They retrieved most of the sunken merchandise, but needed a way to prevent it happening again. Skip advised us on size and type of adhesive gasket to use to fill the extra gap along the side of the registers.

The store staff emptied four bookcases so the building engineers could remove them from sitting on the ends of the vents. Skip and I worked together about 6 hours to remove the register grilles from all four of the air vents, and install the gasket on both sides of all the grilles. While the grilles were out, we also removed any remaining objects from inside the vents, and day custodian Neil Metcalf vacuumed the vents. After we re-installed the grilles in the vents, the building engineers anchored the bookcases back in place and Skip and I reset the shelves, ready for store staff to replace the books when they opened the next day.

The air vents are low, and each vent is about 14 feet long. It was a workout, kneeling down and scooting along each grille twice to apply the gasket to both sides. We used about 112 feet of gasket!


Submitted by Juliann Kunkel


By: Rebekah Bjork | March 21, 2018

Our library has a wonderful collection of books. As they age, some of them need a little more protection against the elements, and that's where Bonnie B. and Bonnie M. come in! They help us increase the number of books we treat by creating custom boxes for fragile books that need more support on the shelf. While Bonnie B. is our most recent volunteer to come on board, Bonnie M. has volunteered in the book and paper conservation lab for more than 10 years. Together, they have already treated more than 200 books this fiscal year! Our volunteers and interns help us ensure that we are the best possible custodians of our collections.

Submitted by staff: Saira Haqqi

Enthusiastic Volunteer Makes a Difference

By: Rebekah Bjork | March 16, 2018

Volunteer Museum Assistant, Travelle, has been volunteering for the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) since 2008, and has contributed more than 1,000 hours! Staff supervisor Bill Dinon said “Travelle is a gem of a volunteer. He has willingly come in to help us out many times at a moment's notice. Thoughtful and respectful to all, he somehow manages to keep our excited and enthusiastic students engaged and involved in our gallery programs at all times.”

Thanks, Travelle, for your commitment to volunteer your time and talents to MNHS!

1 Million Hours and 1 Million Reasons

By: Rebekah Bjork | March 16, 2018

It’s official: our volunteers and interns have reached more than 1,000,000 hours of service to the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) since circa 1992! This is a milestone of enormous value, as MNHS volunteers and interns dedicated their time and talents to contribute to the organization and Minnesota communities.

We are so proud of the successes and accomplishments our volunteers and interns have achieved. We would also like to recognize those who have been with us for more than 20 years; their commitment and longevity are truly appreciated.

There are a million reasons MNHS volunteers and interns are the best. Their excellence and commitment helps drive the success of MNHS.



MNHS Volunteer and Intern Services Staff

A Bag Worth a Pony: The Art of the Ojibwe Bandolier Bag

By: Rebekah Bjork | March 2, 2018

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