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Home / Minnesota's Greatest Generation / About the Project

About the Project

A Great Generation, A One-of-a-Kind Project

On August 14, 2005, the 60th anniversary of the end of the World War II, the Society launched one of the most ambitious undertakings in its more than 150-year history – the Minnesota's Greatest Generation project.  The project has been lauded by the National Endowment for the Humanities as an initiative that "may establish a model for history museums throughout the United States."  The Endowment awarded the Society a $360,000 grant for the Minnesota's Greatest Generation exhibition and designated it as a prestigious "We The People" project for promoting knowledge and understanding of American history and culture.

The project is designed to inform and inspire current and future generations about Minnesota's Greatest Generation and is distinct from other World War II or home front studies because it documents the entire life arc of a generation, from birth through old age.  The project follows the Greatest Generation from their childhood and adolescence in the 1920s and '30s, to their years as young adults during the war and immediate postwar time.  It includes a collections initiative, an interactive Web site, oral history project, publications, and public and educational programs such as the Moving Pictures Film Festival, RetroRama and statewide Preserving Family History workshops. 

"Not only are we preserving the familiar stories of this era, but we are also gathering the untold stories that are present in every Minnesota family and encouraging Minnesotans to unearth these stories themselves," explains Brian Horrigan, Minnesota's Greatest Generation exhibit curator.  "Throughout the project, we've heard from participants about the many meaningful intergenerational conversations they have had with members of their family and community.  Many of which would never have taken place if not for this project."

Nationally Recognized, Award-Winning

In 2007, the Minnesota Council for Non-Profits awarded the Society the DOT.ORG Award to the Share Your Story web site for the "Best Storytelling Web Site."  The History Channel also recognized the educational program Minnesota's Greatest Girls as a Save Our History National Honors Finalist.  In September 2008 the Association for Women in Communications awarded a national Clarion award to the Moving Pictures film competition, a key component of the project, for accuracy, balance, clarity, compassion and creativity.  Moving Pictures film competition submission "Prisoner 32,232," by Gayle Knutson, also received a Regional Emmy nomination for Best Documentary – Historical.

Public Programs, Education and Collections

Since the project began in 2005, the Society has been actively engaging Minnesotans in a statewide dialogue about the Greatest Generation. 

  • Public programs, including the Moving Pictures Film Competition and RetroRama, encourage Minnesotans to interact with history through short films and events celebrating pop culture.  During the more than three years since the project launched, nearly 38,000 people have attended events and more than 150 short films have been submitted to Moving Pictures and become part of the Society's collection. 
  • Educational programs, such as the Preserve Your Family History workshops and Generations Camp, taught Minnesotans about preserving the treasures and traditions of the Greatest Generation for future generations.  Preserve Your Family History workshops were held in 63 counties across Minnesota. 
  • Publications: Several Minnesota Historical Society Press publications, including the books "Remembering the Good War" by Thomas Saylor and "Minnesota Goes to War" by Dave Kenney, illuminate the era for readers.
  • This Web site (www.mngreatestgeneration.org) allows Minnesotans to share stories, explore photo archives and listen to first-hand accounts from Minnesota's Greatest Generation. 
  • Collections: In addition to collecting stories, the Society collected items from individuals for its archives.  Well-known members of Minnesota's Greatest Generation, including Vice President Walter Mondale and former Iranian hostage, Ambassador Bruce Laingen have donated personal artifacts and papers.