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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Volunteers and Interns work in Oral History

By: Rebekah Bjork | August 31, 2017

Oral History volunteers and interns have been making a huge impact by making these stories accessible and available online. Currently, they are working on a project of 3,000 oral history interviews. There are about 1,000 of them that are not online, so they are working to digitize, transcribe, fact-check, and do some light catalogue work to make them available.

Transcribing and working with oral histories has an impact on volunteers and interns. Volunteers seem to like the stories they work with and learning more about those individuals. Interns are able to listen to stories but also gain job experience by working with collections.

Thanks to all volunteers and interns who help assist with oral history projects!

New State Capitol Volunteers

By: Rebekah Bjork | July 14, 2017
Steve Lee

In late June, the MN State Capitol Information, Tours, and Guest Services area began utilizing volunteers to assist with visiting adult groups. These volunteers help greet various groups at the newly restored Capitol building and direct them to the guest services desk. The Capitol is a large space with minimal signage and having volunteers guide incoming groups to this area has streamlined the check-in process. They have been shadowing the larger tours and helping to keep the group together as they moved from one spot to another. The volunteers have been helping to maintain the appearance of the new retail space, assisting with restocking merchandise, and helping to sell the products.

Submitted by Ted Bores 07/14/2017

Volunteers Help Guests Fully Experience the Farm

By: Rebekah Bjork | July 12, 2017

As the summer continues to heat up, the volunteers at Oliver Kelley Farm are doing a wonderful job helping guests experience everything there is to see and do at the farm.

We have Visitor Services Specialists who give orientations to guests, help stock the museum store, and assist in building windmills in the exhibits area.

Our School Programs Greeters are busy greeting, orienting, and guiding daycare and adult groups in the right direction for their tours and to their lunch areas.

The Golf Cart Drivers are kept busy moving guests from the Visitor Center to the Historic Farmstead. From mobility challenges to families, the guests have really appreciated the transportation.

All of the positions are vitally important to the everyday running of the farm. We do not know where we would be without our marvelous volunteers! Thank you!

Submitted by Beth Lochen 07/12/2017

Volunteers Help Guests Fully Experience the Farm image

Student Scholarship 2017 Recipients

By: Rebekah Bjork | June 24, 2017

This is the fifteenth year of the Society's Student Volunteer Scholarship Program. The program recognizes the volunteer contributions that high school students make to the Society by awarding graduating seniors a $1,000 scholarship.

Students met criteria that included: total years and hours of volunteer service, an essay, and letters of recommendation from a teacher and their Society staff supervisor. A selection committee made up of MNHS staff, volunteers, interns, and community members interviewed students and awarded Jagath Naithani and Zac Wright each a $1,000 Society scholarship. Jagath and Zac are both graduating high school seniors who have made tremendous contributions to the Society as volunteers, sharing their time, energy and talents. We are so proud of their accomplishments!

Jagath Naithani
Jagath graduated from Eastview High School in June 2017. He became a Society volunteer in December 2014, and has contributed more than 63 hours of volunteer service. Jagath has served as a special events and coat check volunteer. He says the biggest thing he has learned while volunteering with the Society is good customer service and communication skills. He has learned to be kind and patient with all age groups, which is something that will help him with his future career goals. Jagath plans to attend the University of St. Thomas in the fall and will be studying Business and Marketing.

Zac Wright
Zac graduated from Southwest High School in June 2017. He became a Society volunteer in April 2014, and has contributed more than 186 hours of volunteer service. Zac has served as a member of the teen Fife and Drum Corps at Historic Fort Snelling. While volunteering at the Society, he has learned about drumming techniques and certain styles of historical music. Volunteering at MNHS has helped him complete his goal of being involved in various activities during high school. Zac plans to attend the University of Minnesota-Morris in the fall and may study Earth Science and Music.

Student Scholarship 2017

Dreams of Illustration

By: Rebekah Bjork | June 16, 2017

In 2012, Samantha (Sammy) started volunteering at the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic site as a high school student. Her mother was a new interpreter and she was also interested in the place. We asked her to manage the painting paper plates station for our Children's Day event as she loves art and is good with kids. David Geister was also there to help kids improve their skills. Sammy and David had a fair amount of downtime together and they had good conversations. Sammy asked him questions about becoming an illustrator as a career path.

Fast forward to today - Sammy has graduated from Ithaca University with a degree in illustration. For her culminating project, she created a children's book based on letters Lindbergh and his father wrote to each other (cataloging our onsite collection was another of Sammy's volunteer projects). She submitted this project to Random House Student Illustration Day.

To see the project:

Submitted by Melissa Peterson 06/16/2017

Dreams of Illustration image

Finding Gold

By: Rebekah Bjork | June 12, 2017

Volunteer Levi has been volunteering with MNHS for 3 months, and found the answer to his project on his first day! He was searching our local Little Falls newspapers from the WW1 time frame for any information related to Little Falls during the war. Lindbergh’s new, living history program this summer focuses on life during the war. Levi collected the info on our spreadsheet so we have access to it when we need it.

The one piece of "gold" he was looking for was information about the Boy's Working Reserve. Lindbergh had left school to provide food for the country, but we did not have definitive evidence that he was in the program. Levi found an article in the newspaper stating that the program was offered in Little Falls and it had a list of names on it that included Lindbergh!

Thanks, Levi!

Submitted by Jennifer Burr 06/12/2017

Oliver Kelley Farm Grand Opening

By: Rebekah Bjork | June 1, 2017

49 volunteers contributed more than 220 hours assisting with the early-morning Donor Breakfast, button-making, farm animal safety, seed planting, vinaigrette making, and windmill activities.

Our volunteers helped serve more than 1,900 general admission visitors plus approximately 250 members who attended the Donor Breakfast and Grand Opening events. A special thanks to our wonderful volunteers who helped make this event a success!

Complicated Fun

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 22, 2017

Volunteers Anna, Dana, and Mary did some work on Cyn Collin’s book “Cyn Collin's _ Complicated Fun_”. Combined, they transcribed over half a MILLION words worth of interviews on behalf of Cyn Collins. Supervisor Dan Leary stated “I can say for certain that this title would not exist but for the heroic efforts of Anna, Dana, and Mary.” Cyn Collin's _ Complicated Fun_ is an oral history of the Twin Cities indy rock scene of the late 1970's-early 1980's and was constructed by editing together a truly huge number of interviews with the various movers and shakers on that scene. Dan said “Anna alone transcribed 300,000 words on her own; an astounding effort for hundreds of volunteer hours. How much is 300,000 words ya ask? Well, the finished 450-page book's manuscript ended up being a mere 120,000 words. So you can see just how amazing these women's efforts were. I think when all is said and done, these 3 folks booked about a 1/2 time job's worth of transcription hours on this title. Epic effort.” Anna, Dana, and Mary have been volunteering for more than 8 years and 1,200 hours combined!

Submitted by Dan Leary 05/22/2017  

Book Cover For Complicated Fun

Establishing a Legacy

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 20, 2017

A visit to the Minnesota’s Greatest Generation (MGG) at the History Center is not complete until you’ve experienced volunteer and Air Force veteran Ted presenting on his experience of war during the C-47 media piece. He has not only been an asset to the Minnesota Historical Society’s volunteer program, but to the experiences of visitors of all ages. Ted has played a huge role in the Jenny, the C-47, and the Huey Helicopter projects as well. Ted has been volunteering with MNHS for over 9 years and has dedicated nearly 3,000 hours.

Ted has become a huge asset and advocate for MNHS. He is deeply connected to the community where he gives presentations at senior living home, libraries, and VAs. His hope is to help establish support groups for veterans suffering the effects of war.

Because of Ted’s humility, his presentation is not about him, but the importance of honoring the men and women who serve and have served our country. Ted’s presentation does not glorify war. He offers real-life experiences so others can understand the hardships many went through. His presentation has become such a staple to MGG that people have started bringing in groups just to see Ted.

Ted is quick to credit any success he may have to the incredibly gifted and creative professional staff that surrounds and supports him. He says “their willingness to mentor, answer every question, and help guide his presentations was the key to its success. Being around them makes this a volunteer heaven.” 

Ted has three main reasons why he gives the presentation. First, he does not want anyone to forget the sacrifices made during the war. Second, it is important to go to others and say thank you for their service. Lastly, it teachers the lesson that if you have something you want to do, don’t ever give up. Those who were a part of this war sacrificed their lives for children of the future to do or try anything they want.

It is not uncommon for visitors to leave comment cards or send letters to let us know how Ted’s presentation has touched them and to thank him for his service. Comments such as “Ted’s presentation was awesome!”, “Excellent presentation that will stay with me,” or “We’d like to personally thank him for his service. This experience was amazing because of his personal passion” are just a few of many wonderful messages from visitors.

One particular letter was written by a Hamline professor after visiting with his class. Part of the letter said, “Nevertheless I was impressed by Ted’s presentation. He brought a particular event of the war, D-Day, alive and added greatly to it by bringing attention to the unglamorous aspects of war in general, and that operation in particular. I was so impressed by his presentation that I emailed the director of the History Center to voice my belief that in Ted the Center has a treasure whose enthusiasm and energy are phenomenal.”

Volunteering at the MNHS has had a lasting impact on Ted as well. He said “I volunteer at MNHS because it meets my desire to feel useful and valued in an organizational mission that will leave the world better than I found it, and that primarily benefits my fellow human beings as a result.”

Establishing a Legacy

Gold Star Roll Project

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 15, 2017

Several volunteers have been working hard on the Gold Star Roll project. The Gold Star Roll is now live and searchable on our website!  Check it out at -- make sure the box is checked next to Gold Star Roll in the Record Type field (you may want to deselect the other record types) and put in a name; click on the name to view details about that person and click "Download PDF" to view the actual Gold Star Roll.

This was a whole new kind of project for MNHS and a large effort in its own right. Supervisor Sarah Barsness said “I'm incredibly proud of the work they’ve done. Not only have we made a really important set of records more widely available to researchers, but we've created sustainable model for future projects like this one.”

Thank you all!

Submitted by Sarah Barsness 05/15/2017