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 2,500 volunteers and interns contribute 71,000 hours annually. This diverse volunteer corps helps to achieve the MNHS mission — Using the Power of History to Transform Lives.

All MNHS Blogs

Subscribe by e-mail:

 Subscribe in a reader

MNopedia volunteers have been busy this year

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 24, 2016
  • The MNopdedia volunteer team has logged more than 762 hours so far this fiscal year and some hours are still to be recorded!
  • Rick turned in his first article on G.K. Warren, the first St. Paul District Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is working on revisions.
  • Mary has turned in her first article on the Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park and is in the editing process. Mary managed to get a number of beautiful photographs from the Park/DNR, with permissions to use them - quite a challenge!
  • Aaron has submitted two articles, one on the Minneapolis, Northfield, and Southern Railway, and one on the Minneapolis Great Northern Union Depot.
  • Sarah's article on the Milwaukee Avenue Historic District was published on April 13, and was picked up by MinnPost as a featured article.
  • Janet, Anja, and Catherine have been checking in regularly and have reported great progress on some very interesting research. Watch MNopedia for more, new articles!


Submitted by Linda Cameron 5/24/16


Volunteer Fulfills Lifelong Dream of Learning About Fort Snelling

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 10, 2016

Terry has been a volunteer at the Minnesota Historical Society for more than 12 years. The majority of this time he has worked with photography (still and video) and document scanning.

Recently, he worked with photographing old patent medicine bottles for a display at Historic Fort Snelling this summer. This exhibit explores the use of patent medicines at the Fort in the early days. The four bottles photographed belong to a private party who has a very large collection of patent medicine items. The bottles were in good condition with the paper labels still intact. Use of photographs will allow visitors to see the articles while protecting the originals. This also enables us to have a digital record.

A second recent project was photographing ceramic potsherds. These artifacts more recently were returned to Minnesota by the University of Michigan, which had borrowed them in the 1950s. As part of a documentation process, the returned artifacts were photographed for archival purposes. These artifact pictures will assist a new generation of Minnesota archaeologists who have probably never seen this collection.

Terry said, “One of the aspects of my volunteer work that has been exciting for me, is to discover new areas of exploration and learning. In addition, I am able to use my skills and expertise to add information about a place that has been of interest to me since I was a young child: Fort Snelling.”


Submitted by Terry McGibbon 05/10/16

Volunteer fulfills Lifelong Dream of learning about Fort Snelling

Thrivent Employee Shawn Judges at History Day!

By: Rebekah Bjork | March 31, 2016

Minnesota's History Day competition is one of the most vibrant competition in the nation; each year 30,000 kids around the state explore historical topics through projects ranging from performances, exhibits and documentary films to websites and research papers. In a typical year, more than 50 Minnesota students go to the National History Day competition in Washington D.C. Shawn is one of the 500 regional event judges are needed throughout the month of March and all around the state. Thank you, judges!



Submitted by Karen Kendall 3/31/16

Thrivent Employee Shawn Stuart Judges at History Day

Providing an extra hand

By: Rebekah Bjork | February 21, 2016
A Volunteer's ability provide a much needed extra hand

Cadie has been very involved at the Lindbergh Historic Site. She has many talents and skills and helped assisted in multiple tasks. She helped at the front desk greeting, directing visitors and starting the Lindbergh Documentary; worked in the "games tent" playing historic games with visitors on Living History days; and played Christmas music at Christmas events. Her customer service and work ethic was a huge asset!

A Very Important Piece to the Collection's Relevancy

By: Rebekah Bjork | February 19, 2016

Claire worked on two projects back in 2013. In both, she unfolded and arranged series of letters and postcards, put them in chronological order, and wrote a summary paragraph about their contents. Claire's volunteer work was most helpful to us. Unfolding and organizing take substantial amounts of time that would otherwise have had to be done by paid staff. The collections department and the MNHS owe a big "thank you" to Claire for her dedication to accuracy, her care with fragile manuscripts, and her willingness to read (sometimes difficult) handwriting.

Custom Enclosures Created by Colleen

By: Rebekah Bjork | February 18, 2016

The Minnesota Historical Society has more than 400 panorama photographs in its collections. Because of the long narrow shape of panoramas, they present special storage challenges. The Curator of Photography and Moving Images consulted with conservation staff about how to better protect our panoramas in storage. Conservators designed custom portfolio enclosures to meet this need. Volunteer Colleen came on board to construct the enclosures. The project proved to be more complicated than anticipated but, thanks to the good problem-solving skills of Colleen, all turned out well. Colleen made 32 portfolio enclosures to house 10 to 15 panoramas each plus two extra to accommodate future growth of the collection. Colleen and Jenna Bluhm, Conservation Assistant, made a 24-inch by 60-inch covered box to house the oversized panoramas. The project took 140 hours to complete, and the photographs now are safely housed in one of our storage vaults. Thank you, Colleen!

Custom Enclosures Created by Colleen

The Completion of the MNHS Map Collection

By: Rebekah Bjork | February 18, 2016

Bill is a long time volunteer for the reference library and photo lab. He contributed to the completion of sorting and inventorying the MNHS Map Collection. With this project, Bill removed map copy negatives from the 4x5 negative storage and filed the maps separately. He has also re-sleeved a collection of 104,000 pieces into archival polyester sleeve protectors.

Image of Bill Knutsen

Contributing to the Collections

By: Rebekah Bjork | February 17, 2016

Mica was found to be the perfect volunteer! She's dedicated, professional, and communicates well. She puts a lot of time arranging and describing nearly 300 photographs associated with the Rondo Neighborhood. Many of these pictures have been digitized and are in Collections Online so they can be shared with a broader audience. This information will be used in the finding aid for the collection and will make the collection more usable by interested parties.

Lead the Way: Volunteers Strengthen Heritage Preservation

By: Rebekah Bjork | December 18, 2015

Three strategies in Minnesota’s statewide preservation plan mention volunteers in reference to increasing historic preservation capacity (Plan Goals 3, 4, and 5; PADB C7, D1, and E5). The Minnesota Historical Society’s strategic plan also includes a strategy to be “deeply engaged in cultivating meaningful relationships with adult audiences as lifelong learners, members, donors, volunteers and supporters.” During the last two years, the MNHS Heritage Preservation Department has participated in an institution-wide initiative to become a “Service Enterprise” through the Points of Light Foundation. According to the Foundation, a “Service Enterprise is an organization that fundamentally leverages volunteers and their skills across all levels of the organization to successfully deliver on its social mission.” (

In 2014, MNHS staff worked with Hands on Twin Cities and the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration as part of piloting the Service Enterprise concept in Minnesota. After attending volunteer training and creating a service enterprise work plan, MNHS became the first historical society in the country to receive Service Enterprise certification in January 2015. During state fiscal year 2015, 2,560 volunteers and interns served in 30 MNHS departments and programs. The value of that service equals $1.4 million! A Return on Volunteer Investment report found that for every dollar MNHS invests in the program, volunteers generate $3.63 in return. With skills-based volunteers, it increases to $5.51! To learn more about the volunteer program at MNHS, go to

During federal fiscal year 2015, volunteers donated over 1,700 hours to help MNHS Heritage Preservation meet our program goals. We have a core group of volunteers who are known for their dedication to our department. To date, volunteers have scanned 25% of our statewide inventory. One of our long-term volunteers prepared 17 boxes of 2009 Review and Compliance files for archival storage last year. She also recently helped archive 7 boxes of inventory forms from the Bottineau Light Rail project due to extreme space restrictions in our statewide inventory. Another volunteer scanned grant documents from 2010 in order to link them into our online grants system, allowing all of our recent grant information to be available in a single place.

MNHS Heritage Preservation also works with skills-based volunteers on a regular basis. One volunteer is helping obtain map coordinates for our statewide inventory in preparation for eventually moving to a GIS-based digital system. Another brought troubleshooting and database skills to clean up our 720 records in our tax credit database, which has grown exponentially since the introduction of our state historic tax credit. He also integrated reuse study information into the statewide inventory’s database and files. A graduate student in historic preservation worked with our National Register archaeologist to begin compilation of a history of Minnesota’s National Register archaeology for the 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. Another volunteer has also been researching the history of field services in Minnesota in preparation for next year’s 100th Anniversary of MNHS providing services to local history organizations throughout the state.

As Director Elliott says in a video encouraging MNHS staff to work with volunteers, we are blessed to have such a robust volunteer workforce ( In Heritage Preservation, we are blessed to have a very loyal group of volunteers who are willing to help us in all aspects of our work. We are also blessed to work with Certified Local Governments, local historical societies, and Minnesota’s Main Streets, all of whom value volunteers.


Submitted by Barbara Howard on 12/18/15

Development Project

By: Rebekah Bjork | November 20, 2015

As a volunteer, Michael contributed greatly to research in support of the generous supporters of MNHS. Michael worked with an MNHS staff researcher, to help us better understand the backgrounds and philanthropy of our supporters. Michael also assisted in the organization of development officer history - by reviewing our existing files system and improving our access to information about past fund-raising campaign, events and donor recognition.


Submitted by Matt Musel