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About the Exhibit

'When the Weatherball is red, warmer weather is ahead...'

cold kidsWhat Minnesotan doesn't wish for "warmer weather ahead," especially in January? The History Center's newest exhibit gives visitors the chance to experience the state's challenging climate, from overcoming - and celebrating - its bone-chilling winters to basking on the sunny shores of its 10,000 lakes.

"Doing an inside exhibit on weather has been a challenge," says curator Loris Sofia Gregory. "But the topic seemed a natural for the History Center because we live in one of the most extreme climates in the United States. The weather affects everything about our lives."

Weather Permitting brings to life the elements of Minnesota's theater of seasons and the ways its citizens cope with perpetual highs and lows. The exhibit draws upon the Society's collections and an ingenious array of environmental settings and cleverly clothed mannequins to present the ordeals, rituals and memories of Minnesota weather. With artifacts, photographs, multimedia shows and hands-on activities, the exhibit is an exploration of the weather's impact on our lives now and through history.

To many, winter is Minnesota's defining season. One of the first things visitors will see when they enter the exhibit is a scene familiar to all those who have lived through a Minnesota snow storm: a car stuck in a snow bank. On the car's back window is a continually running film about Minnesota's winter ordeals and frosty fun.

Minnesotans dare Mother Nature as a matter of routine.

From St. Paul's Winter Carnival to snowmobiling to ice fishing, Minnesotans find ways to have fun outside no matter what the weather. In "Land of 10,000 Frozen Lakes," visitors can peek into a vintage ice-fishing house and explore the frigid charms of ice fishing through several media pieces, including recorded observations on the sport from Garrison Keillor and Kevin Kling.

"Minnesotans tend to be obsessed about the weather forecasts because they like to do things outside throughout the year," says Gregory. The exhibit's "Television Weather" section focuses on our seeming insatiable need to stay on top of weather conditions. Viewers have remained glued to their screens as the science of forecasting has evolved from Twin Cities legend Bud Kraehling's early days as a weatherman, to Barry Zevan's comedic peek-a-boo style in the 1970s, to today's KSTP chief meteorologist Dave Dahl, backed by the science of Doppler radar.

iceTrue Minnesotans stoically maintain that if it weren't for our brisk winters, we wouldn't enjoy summers so much. On the first sunny days of spring, the layers come off as we rush headlong into the pleasures of a Minnesota summer, no matter how many mosquitoes there are to swat.

In "Too Hot, Went to Lake," visitors will see a 1956 model "Falls Flyer," the unique molded fiberglass boat designed by Paul Larson of Larson Boat Works in Little Falls, mounted high over their heads. Larson was inspired by his high-school classmate Charles Lindbergh's first airplane in designing the 14-foot boat with a twin cockpit and round hull. Visitors also will see Minnesotan Ralph Samuelson's original water skis. Samuelson is credited with inventing the sport in 1922.

"Weather Permitting has allowed us to be playful with history, to poke fun at the unique culture of Minnesota and our ability to weather our climate," says Gregory, "but our climate often can be more challenging than shoveling out the driveway or trying to keep cool on 90-degree day." In "Get to the basement!" a recreated 1960s-era home basement, a powerful multimedia show focuses on the human experiences and emotions evoked by a series of tornadoes that struck Fridley in May 1965. Other sections of the exhibit deal with the stark reality of families surviving blizzards and heat waves, floods and tornadoes.

"I think visitors will feel a range of emotions as they explore the collage of weather experiences over time, from enjoying the celebrations to surviving the ordeals," Gregory says. "Even though we are constantly preoccupied by the weather," she adds, "it is an elusive, captivating mystery. As much as we would like to, we can't figure out or control the weather, but human nature keeps us trying."

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