Collections Up Close

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.

All MNHS Blogs

Subscribe by e-mail:

 Subscribe in a reader

Anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 10, 2021

This is the anniversary of the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975. Although it was the largest Great Lakes freighter of its time, it could not handle the storm, and all 29 crew members were lost.
These are photos are view of the decks of the Edmund Fitzgerald at the Soo Locks at Sault Ste Marie in Michigan, July 1975. 
Learn more here:



By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 9, 2021

In the fall our collective thoughts turn to football, for good or ill.
This photo is of a football game in 1936.
It was taken by the a photographer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and forms part of Minneapolis and St. Paul Newspaper Negative Collection.

Land Research

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 8, 2021

Today's Item of the Day is a map of Rhinehart Township, in Polk County, from 1915.
This atlas and farmers' directory contains a complete survey in township plats of Polk County. It was published by "The Farmer: a journal of agriculture" in St. Paul.  
This is just one example of similar maps for other locales. 
Look for your town on Collections Online:
Learn more here about Land Records.

Native Author

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 4, 2021

November is Native American Heritage Month. In honor of this, we will highlight contemporary creators weekly who are adding to the cultural landscape of Minnesota and beyond in a variety of fields.
This week’s focus is on writing. While there are many wonderful Native writers from Minnesota, Louise Erdrich stands out. She has written 28 books, mostly literary fiction but also non-fiction, poetry, children’s, and young adult titles. She has won many awards, including National Book Award for The Round House; the Pultizer Prize for The Nightwatchman; and multiple Minnesota Book Awards. 
Her stories weave together threads about family, place, and identity. They are by turns funny, heartbreaking, challenging, and real. She is a treasure and we are lucky to be able to count her as a Minnesota author! 
Find a list of the title by her the MNHS Library holds here:,contains,erdrich,%20louise&tab=LibraryCatalog&search_scope=MyInstitution&sortby=date_d&vid=01MNPALS_MHS:MHS&facet=location_code,include,4294%E2%80%93132613370004294%E2%80%93main&facet=rtype,include,books&lang=en&offset=0
Learn more here:

"Friendly Valley"

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 4, 2021

This piece of ephemera is so great. It promises right on the front that "...everything will please you..."
The "Friendly Valley" is in fact the St. Croix Valley, which is honestly extremely beautiful, so this isn't lying while sounding vaguely cultish. 
It is undated, but mentions President Coolridge's 1928 "Summer White House" outside of Frederic, Wisconsin. The swimsuits, cars, and emphasis on "good roads" also date it to the late 1920s - early 1930s.

Modern Dance Textiles

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 3, 2021

These fabric samples from 1950 were used in dance costumes worn by Gertrude Lippincott. Lippincott was a prominent dancer, choreographer and teacher of modern dance at the time. 
Learn more in this Minnesota History article about her:

Today is Election Day!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 2, 2021

Check out this handbill created by the League of Women Voters after the 1920 election to encourage more people to vote.

As a state we have gotten better since then, often having the highest voter turnouts in the country, but we can always do better!

Remember to vote today! It is your right and duty!


Happy Dia De Los Muertos!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 1, 2021

Today is the Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. It originated in Mexico and is now celebrated by places with Mexican communities all over the world, including Minnesota. It is related to the Catholic holiday of All Souls' Day, which falls at the same time, but is its own colorful and joyous celebration of life and death and loved ones. 
This poster was created to announce of “the celebration of souls” in 2007. It was published by Centro in Minneapolis; designed by Liz Pangerl; and photographed by Xavier Tavera. 

Halloween Blizzard - 30 Years Ago!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 29, 2021

Yes, it is the 30th year anniversary of the Halloween Blizzard that will live on in memories and stories forever!
This image of Jack-o'-lanterns covered in snow came from that storm in 1991. The photograph was taken by Richard Sennott, RPA, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
To relive details of that day or to get caught up if you don't remember it, visit the MNopedia article.

Belated National Animal Day

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 29, 2021

National Animal Day was this past Monday, but when isn't it a good time to celebrate strange and surprising photos of animals in our collection?
Click here to see them all.