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.
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!
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.
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.
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.” (www.pointsoflight.org/service-enterprise-initiative)
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 www.mnhs.org/volunteers.
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 (www.youtube.com/watch?v=slWQRjH2QNk). 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
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
Volunteers Gayle and Faye brought their years of sewing experience to work with staff Designer Brianna Wucuich and Senior Designer, Earl Gutnik to sew window treatments for the Suburbia exhibit. Now on display!
During our 2-day brainstorming session, volunteer Terry and his healthcare consulting background were a huge asset! Our group of 15 brought many perspectives, and Terry helped us sort through ideas in an efficient, supportive, enthusiastic way. He helped us strategize the experience beforehand, then provided a calm and organizing presence throughout. Terry's a great listener, and knows when to take the lead, and when to step back and let the process unfold. I highly recommend him as a facilitator!
Submitted by Suzi Gran
Julia volunteer for the collections department under Sondra Reierson. She is a quick study and has been updating the backlog inventories and printing donor paperwork, which saves the department staff and her supervisor a lot of processing time. She will be missed!
Submitted by Sondra Reierson, June 2015
Matt is volunteering for the Facilities/Risk management department as a Legal Researcher for Diane Adams-Graf. He is working with register of deeds records and investigating federal and state easements and restrictions as they relate to the Society's 13 properties throughout the State of Minnesota. Matt utilizes the skills and knowledge he gained as a real estate developer to help him efficiently to find and read documents needed for the research. We are fortunate that Matt brings to us his experience working with Housing Projects in the metro area.
While the records are not new acquisitions to the State Archives, Civil War-era records of Charles Stees were reviewed, listed and re-housed by State Archives volunteers Debbie and Mary. The first set of records, dated 1862-1867 (bulk dated 1862-1865), is of Capt. Stees as adjutant for Company G of the 6th Minnesota Regiment. Included are enlistment papers, correspondence and reports concerning ordnance and quartermaster stores, and muster rolls. The other set of records are Civil War pension files (dated 1881-1895) reflecting the work of Stees as a pension agent for 76 Civil War veterans and/or their survivors. The records include correspondence, memorandum, proof of disability, widows’ and soldiers’ applications, power of attorney, copies of death certificates, and related records. With enhanced arrangement and description the records are now more accessible for use by researchers, and will be valuable for family history and military history research.