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Minnesota Local History News

Published: July 26, 2006

A weekly publication by the Minnesota Historical Society for professional local historians and historical organizations.

Discussions and Questions

Smithsonian's Agreement with Showtime

Mary Warner, Museum Manager at the Morrison County Historical Society: Have you heard? The Smithsonian Institution has negotiated a deal with Showtime to create Smithsonian On Demand, a service that will provide digital cable programs for the network using Smithsonian resources. Here’s the kicker: The deal allows Showtime exclusive access to Smithsonian resources whilst excluding other commercial filmmakers from using the resources for more than “incidental use.” The full extent of the Smithsonian/Showtime contract is confidential. It should be noted that 75 percent of the Smithsonian’s funding comes from taxpayers. The Smithsonian is arguing that the deal will bring in money to finance its mission and also give the public more access to its collections via the digital cable programs. So, local museum professionals, what do you think? Has the Smithsonian made a deal with the devil? Or, are they just being smart capitalists?

For previous discussions and questions, see the MN local history blog.

Job Announcements

Part-time Clerical Support/ Patron Assistance:  Anoka County Historical Society

Anoka County Historical Society seeks a part-time person for clearical support and pataron assistance.  Work schedule is every other Saturday, with occasional weekdays as needed. Send letter and resume by July 31 to: Anoka County Historical Society, 2135 Third Avenue North, Anoka, MN 55303.

Museum Interpreter, Wells Fargo History Museum

The Wells Fargo History Museum in Minneapolis seeks a museum interpreter for its downtown location. The position is flexible and therefore ineligible for most Wells Fargo benefits. The position will work an average of 15 hours per week between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Position Duties: Conduct tours to elementary school groups, senior citizens, Wells Fargo employees, and the general public.  Greet visitors, provide information, and answer questions pertaining to Wells Fargo History including the gold rush, stagecoach, and regional history.  Support museum operations including answering the phone, performing retail duties for small museum gift shop, clerical duties, and light housekeeping.  Assist with special museum events as needed. The Wells Fargo History Museum interprets the history of Wells Fargo since its founding in 1852 as a bank and express company including the gold rush, pony express, and stagecoach.   Exhibits include an original Concord Coach, artifacts and early photos, a working telegraph, and a replica of the Northwestern National Bank Weatherball. The museum is located at 6th and Marquette in downtown Minneapolis.  Open since 2000, the Wells Fargo History Museum is free and open to the public Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Minimum Qualifications: Effective written and verbal communication skills and the ability to speak in front of an audience, ability to work under minimal supervision, ability to be flexible and think on your feet. Preferred Skills: Retail experience and experience working with children.  Experience in education, history, museums, or related field preferred.  To apply, see website and enter job requisition number 3067527. Deadline is August 4, 2006.

Museum Exhibits Technician , Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Hays, KS


State civil service position, full time with benefits, $12.41 per hour.  Sternberg Museum is a department of Fort Hays State University. Duties: Participates in the production and installation of all exhibit projects. This includes constructing and finishing cabinets and exhibit furniture, fabricating custom specimen mounts, creating original artwork, matting and framing artwork, fabricating interactive devices, producing and mounting exhibit graphics, molding and casting specimen reproductions, and creating diorama elements. Participates in exhibit design work as assigned. Conducts daily monitoring and maintenance of exhibits. Participates in the installation and dismantling of temporary exhibitions. Prepares specimens for exhibit using appropriate and conservationally sound techniques and materials. - Responsible for proper use of various tools, equipment, and chemicals used for exhibit design and production. Fabricates custom equipment, tools, and jigs. Maintains production areas, tools, and equipment.   Qualifications: Bachelor's degree in one of the natural sciences or in art, design, industrial arts, or theater production, with a strong interest and background in natural history. Additional experience in museum work or exhibit production techniques may be subsituted for education. Exhibit production utilizes a wide variety of highly specialized techniques. Prior training in at least one of these techniques is required. Techniques include, but are not limited to, fine woodworking, machining, welding, molding and casting, fiberglass work, Plexiglas fabrication, electronics, technical theatre (lighting design, scenery production, etc), graphics production, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, fossil preparation, and taxidermy. In-depth knowledge of exhibit fabrication and production techniques. Knowledge of construction trade, with skills in fine woodworking. Knowledge of conservation requirements of museum specimens. Strong aesthetic sense and meticulous attention to detail. Ability to work with others in a team environment and to function as "project leader" as assigned. - At least 1 year experience in museum exhibit work (preferably in a natural history or science museum) or in exhibit productiontechniques. To apply, submit cover letter, transcript, and State of Kansas Employment Application to FHSU Personnel Office, 600 Park Street, Picken Hall, Room 207, Hays, KS 67601 or online; 785-628-4462. Review of applications begins 07-31-2006. Position will remain open until filled.

Local Events

Nicollet County Historical Society's Marble Mania at Fort Ridgely Historic Site

Come to Fort Ridgely on September 2, 2006 and be a kid again.  Bring your shooters and cat –eye marbles and join Tom Fletcher as he shares his knowledge of the game of marbles.  Have you thought of Abe Lincoln playing a game of marbles?  Tom will share that part of history about our 16th president and other marble games of the 1850s and 1860s. Tom is co-owner of the toy store Essence of Nonsense and will have marbles and stories to share during each session at the Historic Site. Two programs to be held at the site—1:00 and 2:30pm. The program is free and open to all age groups.  A State Park sticker is needed to enter the Fort Ridgely Park.  Fort Ridgely is located 7 miles south of Fairfax and 11 miles north of Sleepy Eye on State Hwy #4. The Nicollet County Historical Society sponsors the event.

Mississippi River Valley Tour, Southeast Minnesota
Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2006

Experience the spectacular scenery and rich history of the Mississippi River Valley via Amtrak and motorcoach. Join tour guide Tom Balcom, meet new people, and reconnect with friends, all of whom share a passion for history, trains, nature, and the Mississippi River on this special one-day tour you won’t want to miss.  Ride the rails with Empire Builder James J. Hill, portrayed by a historical actor. Take Amtrak from the Twin Cities to Winona (Tour starts at 7:30am). Tour historic Winona, including districts and buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, and eat lunch at Jefferson Pub and Grill, a former railroad freight house near the river.  Explore via motorcoach the scenic byways, rustic roads, and quaint river towns of Minnesota and Wisconsin. High points (literally) will be the magnificent blufftop overlook stops in addition to enjoying the river valley’s fall colors and migrating waterfowl, including eagles.  See live eagles up close and personal at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha and have dinner at the Anderson House, Minnesota’s oldest hotel. Take Amtrak from Red Wing back to the Twin Cities (arriving at 10:30pm; or if you are staying for the two-day historic preservation conference, you will take the train back on Friday night). Tour Tickets are available for $120 per person and includes Amtrak, motorcoach, expert guide services, lunch and dinner. For further information and registration, please call the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, 651-293-9047. Space is limited, so please call today! Registration deadline is Friday, August 4th. Tour sponsored by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.


Winona County Historical Society Receives Record $1.5 Million Challenge Grant

Family President of the Laird Norton Company of Seattle, Washington, Chalan Colby, announced a $1.5 million challenge grant to the Winona County Historical Society to be used for a 15,000 sq. ft. addition to the Society’s headquarters in downtown Winona. The addition will be used for expanded collection storage, new exhibits, programming space for up to 200 people, and for artifact conservation work. The Society has until June 30, 2008 to match the grant. Accompanying Ms. Colby was her mother Betty Helmholz, a fourth generation family member who grew up in Winona and Laurie Lucas, Laird Norton Company board member and current president of the Winona County Historical Society.  This challenge grant is the largest given to a county historical society in Minnesota to date. It is an outgrowth of a yearlong planning, and needs assessment effort by the board and staff of the Society. The Laird Norton Company and family members have been contributing to the Winona community since the company opened its first sawmill in the city in 1855. The company purchased and donated the old National Guard Armory building, which is currently used by the Society for its headquarters museum, library and archives, offices and exhibits. Through the Laird Norton family’s Winona Foundation (not the same organization as the Winona Community Foundation) hundreds of thousands of dollars have been contributed over the past two and a half decades for projects that benefit the area including the Winona Public Library, Pickwick Mill, Polish Museum and various cultural events. One of the original founders of the company donated the Winona Public Library building and another donated Winona’s band shell in Lake Park. Family members have also been supporters of the YMCA, the first hospital, Lake Park, and much more. Until this year the family members owned Lanoga Corporation, the parent company of United Building Centers. The Winona County Historical Society has one of the largest membership of any county society in Minnesota, with over 1,400 members. It provides programs and events, in addition to operating three museum sites. Historical Society Executive Director Mark Peterson stated, “What we have here is an important historical business coming together with an important historical society to develop what will become one of the finest historical museums outside a major metropolitan area in the Midwest. The project will be finished in June 2010 on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Society, and will complement the new Minnesota Marine Art Museum and the other museums in Winona County to help position Winona County as a major tourist attraction.”  The capital campaign, “History Never Stops,” will be the second major capital campaign for the Society. In the mid-1990s the Society raised more than $650,000 to make major renovations to all three of its properties. This museum expansion is proposed for the lot adjacent to the present facility, a lot occupied by the State Theatre until it was razed in 1980; the space currently serves as a county employee parking lot. Though issues need to be resolved in order to acquire this property, the Society is confident that the county and the city will find a way to make it happen. All parties are motivated by the attractiveness of a $3 million development project and the long-term impact this will have on the county. For more information, contact: Mark Peterson, 507-454-2723, ext. 1.

Grant Deadlines

IMLS Calls for 2007 Conservation Project Support Grant Applications

Application Deadline: October 1, 2006.  The Institute of Museum and Library Services is accepting grant applications to the agency's FY 2007 Conservation Project Support (CPS) program. CPS awards matching grants to help museums identify conservation needs and priorities and perform activities to ensure the safekeeping of their collections. The Institute funds four types of collections: Nonliving, Natural History/Anthropology, Living Plants, and Living Animals. There are seven categories of Conservation Project Support activities. Applicants should apply under the category that best meets their institution's highest collections care needs (living animal collections are eligible to apply for last three categories): 1. General Conservation Survey: to broadly assess all of the museum's collections and environmental conditions; 2. Detailed Conservation Survey: to systematically examine, item-by-item, all or part of a museum's collections; 3. Treatment: to conserve, preserve, or stabilize collections; 4. Environmental Survey: to assess a museum's environmental conditions, including temperature, relative humidity, and light; 5. Environmental Improvements: to improve and/or stabilize climatic conditions such as light, temperature, relative humidity, vibration, mold/fungus, pests, or air pollutants; 6. Research: to conduct innovative conservation research projects with potential benefits to the field of conservation; 7. Training: to train staff (including volunteers and interns) in conservation and collections care (see note below).  The Institute will provide up to $150,000 for successful grant proposals. For Impact Projects, proposals with broad-reaching effects that benefit multiple institutions, the maximum is increased to $250,000. All applicants may also apply for up to $10,000 in additional funds for an Education Component that will educate the general public about their conservation project. Click here for grant application and guidelines.  To help museum applicants prepare proposals, the Institute will host technical assistance audio conference calls--dates, times, and telephone numbers to be announced.

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

Connecting the Dots: Minnesota's First Cultural Heritage Tourism Summit"

Save the Date: Monday, October 9, 2006, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  The Minnesota Association of Museums (MAM) is partnering with Explore Minnesota Tourism and many others to bring you this fabulous opportunity to connect with others in Minnesota who work with Cultural Tourism. To learn more, check out the Save the Date site and the Explore MN site. Rudy Maxa of the Savvy Traveler will be the luncheon speaker!

Field Note

Are time capsules a good idea?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Here is an example from the Grant County courthouse cornerstone.  The capsule was damaged.  The unstable environment resulted in damage to a copy of a speech given by the president of the Old Settlers Association at the laying of cornerstone. The document is part of an exhibit at the Grant County Historical Society that includes the time capsule and its contents.

Typewritten papers, stapled at top.  Portons of paper missing or damaged.

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