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collections up close Blog

Collecting pieces of Minnesota's past for the future


The Minnesota Historical Society preserves and makes available a wide range of materials chronicling Minnesota's history and culture. The goals of the Collections Department are to collect and preserve; provide access and interpretation; and engage in education and outreach. This blog is a tool to share these stories and let people know what is happening in the department.

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What's New

An Evening with Walter Mondale and the Public Affairs Collections of MHS

By: admin | What's New | November 19, 2012

Join us for an evening to celebrate the completion of the Mondale Papers project and learn more about the Public Affairs Collections of the MHS. Speakers will talk about the importance of the Collection, and Mr. Mondale and Gary Eichten (of Minnesota Public Radio) will have a conversation about his life in public service.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Location: Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN.

Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Cost: FREE. Registration Required. Reserve tickets here: www.mnhs.org/mondaleevent

Call 651-259-3015 for more information

Please note:  All tickets will be held at will call 30 minutes prior to the event.  No tickets will be mailed.

Even if you can't make the event, be sure to check out our new and improved Government, Politics, and Public Affairs page as well as the new Walter F. Mondale Collection page.

Ded Uŋk’uŋpi—We Are Here Art Exhibit at the James J. Hill House

By: admin | What's New | October 23, 2012
Ded Uŋk’uŋpi—We Are Here art exhibit opened at the James J. Hill House last weekend. 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the largest mass execution in the history of the United States. On December 26th, 1862, 38 Dakota warriors were sentenced and hung as a result of the U.S./Dakota war.  This timely and important group exhibit features works by 20 Native American artists whose work responds to the legacy of these events.

Work by eight of the artists has been selected for purchase as part of the Minnesota Historical Society's permanent collection. The painting above is titled "The Crow is to Die For!" by Dwayne Wilcox.

Featured Artists:
Joe Allen, Angela Babby, Karen Beaver, Todd Bordeaux, Julie Buffalohead, Avis Charley, Gordon Coons, Jim Denomie, Michael Elizondo Jr., Evans Flammond, Charles Her Many Horses, Dakota Hoska, Henry Payer, Charles Rencountre, James Star Comes Out, Maggie Thompson, Jodi Webster, Gwen Westerman, Dwayne Wilcox, Bobby Wilson

Dakota Artist and Scholar Gwen Westerman Wasicuna said the following about the exhibit:

"With a stunning mix of humor and anger, hope and despair, this collection expresses the array of complicated responses to a brutal history.  While the thirty-eight executed Dakota are prominent, other essential aspects of culture and tradition are also present, including the strength of Dakota women, the role of horses and honor, and the ever-present landscape of the homeland. Whether incorporating new interpretations of traditional forms of beadwork, winter counts, and horse masks, or employing diverse contemporary techniques in glass, found objects, and photography, the messages here are as diverse as the artists themselves.  The stories depicted contribute to a broader understanding of the impact of these historical events and the power of art to tell a difficult story.  Abstract, realistic, and representational, these pieces help us see the transformative capacity of trauma and healing, destruction and regeneration, and above all, representation and memory."

This exhibit will be on view during Hill House hours until January 13, 2013.

Remembering the "Happy Warrior" - Hubert H. Humphrey Digitization Project

By: admin | What's New | August 22, 2012

In this election year, we have an opportunity to look back at one of the greatest statesman produced by Minnesota: Hubert H. Humphrey.

Thanks to a grant from the NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission) we are working on digitizing all of Humphrey's speeches. He was well-known as a fantastic orator. When complete, this project will provide a tremendous resource for students of all ages as well as people interested in the politics and history of our state and nation.

The intent with this project is to update the finding aid with those speech texts that have been digitized each month.  People can look forward to the 1941-1947 speeches being available this September.

Learn more:

Railroad Inventories: On Track and On Line!

By: admin | What's New | July 23, 2012

Together, the Northern Pacific and Great Northern manuscript collections make the Minnesota Historical Society one of the great centers for railroad research in the entire nation. Acquisitioned in December 1968 and October 1972, the Northern Pacific and Great Northern railroads, respectively, became two of the largest collections that the Society houses. An astounding number of records have been processed and conserved in the intervening time, leading to thousands of boxes, volumes, and drawings being made accessible for research purposes.

The availability of inventories for these collections has, until recently, only been available in the Society’s reading room, but now you can explore the multitude of records on line! Documenting all facets of the railroads’ development and the communities they served, these finding aids allow for more convenient browsing, faster searching, and the discovery of related materials that may have been overlooked before.

That’s right! Minneapolis to Minot, Grand Forks to Great Falls, and Sand Point to Seattle, all stops along the railroad to research are now available on line. Travel the rails to Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, finagle your way through financial records, peruse photographs, consider correspondence, muse over maps, delve into drawings, bring blueprints to bear, and inspect indexes. We’re not just blowing steam here, take a look for yourself, and come explore the history of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads:

Great Northern: http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00901.xml

Northern Pacific: http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/01010.xml

Colt Army Model 1860 Revolver Owned By Mathew Marvin

By: admin | What's New | July 16, 2012

In October 2011, the Minnesota Historical Society acquired this Colt Army Model 1860 revolved used by Mathew Marvin of Company K in the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. A native of upstate New York, Marvin made his way to Winona, Minnesota, in 1859, where he clerked in a store. At the outset of the Civil War, he was among the first to enlist at Fort Snelling in April 1861.

Marvin's military career was mixed. While he rose through the ranks from Private to First Sergeant, he also suffered three wounds. The first was in battle at First Bull Run, the second was in camp due to an accidental discharge from another soldier's gun, and the third occured during the 1st Minnesota's celebrated charge at Gettysburg. That wound, caused when a bullet passed through the length of his foot, effectively ended his service and troubled him for the remainder of his life. After recuperating with his parents in Illinois, Marvin eventually returned to Winona, where he was active in veterans' affairs. He died, at age 64, in 1903, and was buried in Winona's Woodlawn Cemetery.

Marvin's revolver passed on to his daughter, Mabel, who in turn gave it to a collector shortly before her own death in 1955. The collector took it with him to Nebraska, where it was auctioned this past fall. Now the gun not only returns to Minnesota, but also joins Mathew Marvin's frock coat, canteen, personal papers and diaries, already in the Society's collections. It's a magnificent addition, and all the more fitting as we commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

Matt Anderson
Former Objects Curator

Learn More

Midwest Antiquarian Book Fair is Coming!

By: admin | What's New | June 20, 2012
The Midwest Antiquarian Booksellers Association's 22nd Annual Twin Cities Book Fair will be held on Friday, June 29, 2012 and on Saturday, June 30, 2012 in the Progress Center Building located at the Minnesota State Fair grounds in St. Paul, Minnesota. More than 60 Booksellers from 15 states will be offering for sale antiquarian, rare, and fine books, maps, ephemera and other paper collectibles.

Minnesota Historical Society members are invited to enjoy refreshments and hear the Library of Congress Lessing J. Rosenwald curator, Dan De Simone, speak.  De Simone has been at the Library of Congress since January 2000; previously, he ran his own rare book company in NYC. Over the past 35 years he has developed expertise in antiquarian bibliography, illustrated books, 18th-century French and Italian books, and 18th-century Irish books.

It is also an opportunity to help build the fantastic Minnesota Historical Society's Library Collection! This world-renowned collection is continually evolving and now is your chance to be part of it. Gifts up to $ 5,000 will be matched dollar for dollar!

To learn more about this exciting event, visit 2012bookfairwishlist.

If you are not a member yet, there is still time to join and attend!

Hope to see you there!

History Happy Hour at the Ramsey House next Thursday!

By: admin | What's New | June 7, 2012

Who was Ignatius Donnelly? He was a U.S. Congressman, populist writer and amateur scientist, but today he's just as well known for his theories on Atlantis, Catastrophism and Shakespearean authorship. Get to know him at next Thursday's History Happy Hour at the Alexander Ramsey House. Reserve your tickets today!

Who is Patrick Coleman? Acquisitions Librarian at MHS, avid canoer, and Donnelly enthusiast. He'll be the one regaling you with stories of Donnelly and old Saint Paul.

Očhéthi Šakówiŋ – The Seven Council Fires web site is now live!

By: admin | What's New | May 8, 2012

For over a decade the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) has been digitizing collections materials for the purposes of increasing accessibility, supporting research, and preserving original materials. The Očhéthi Šakówiŋ – The Seven Council Fires digitization project expanded to include additional goals. Sought by Dakota individuals who wanted increased access and understanding of the Dakota material culture in the MHS collections, a new level of transparency was achieved. By using the WOTR (Write On The Record) tool to record feedback and comments MHS steps back and shares authority in interpreting this material. Both MHS and Dakota communities will benefit from this partnership as information about these items is dramatically enhanced.

New Library Home Page!

By: admin | What's New | March 5, 2012

We have a new Library homepage!


We got rid of some out-of-date things, added some new how-tos to empower users, and cleaned up the layout. Access to our tools and information is still there, hopefully in a more user friendly format. The ability to easily change the Featured Item and Library News will make our communications to patrons as timely as possible.

Take a look!

Beyond the Doughboy: Minnesota Mascots in the Library Lobby!

By: admin | What's New | February 9, 2012

If you've seen and loved the Beyond the Doughboy: Minnesota Mascots podcast, then be sure not to miss the corresponding exhibit in the Library Lobby!
Pieces from the podcast and more will be on view now through the end of March.
Keep it real, Gophers!


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