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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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Not a Virus Shirt

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 13, 2022

Last Friday was our dear colleague Hannah Novillo-Erickson's last day at MNHS. This is one of the many important additions she collected during her time here.
This tshirt, produced by Sai Xiong of Saint Paul, was created in response to the international COVID-19 crisis and subsequent racism directed at Asian communities. 
Thank you, Hannah!

Judy Garland's Birthday

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 10, 2022

Today is singer and actress Judy Garland's birthday.
She was born Frances Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 1922.
This photo is from 1938.


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 9, 2022

Now is the time of year when thoughts turn to sundresses.
This cute pink cotton sundress with pinstripes and an appliqué of three white snails was sold at Hmong Handwork in Saint Paul between 1981 - 1998.

Happy International Archives Day!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 8, 2022

Today is International Archives Day!
To celebrate, we share this Tiktok, showing the two different places archival material is stored in our institution: stacks versus warehouse.
Click image to play.

Prince's Birthday

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 7, 2022

Today is Prince's birthday!
Today we are sharing Prince's personal travel bible. This is a 1984 printing of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, given to Prince by a Jehovah's Witness when he was in the United Kingdom attending a service at Kingdom Hall. The copy is bound in black leather and has a zipper protecting the inner pages. It was used between 2001 - 2016.

National Eyeglasses Day

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 6, 2022

June 6 is National Eyeglasses Day, so we thought we'd share some iconic ones from our collections.
Ken Davis's eyewear are certainly memorable. These tinted, sort of aviator style, with bifocal lenses and peripheral glass on temples were worn by him from 1970 - 1991.
Next are Governor Knute Nelson's thin, metal framed spectacles with carrying case, circa 1890. 
Lastly are the sunglasses used by Ann Bancroft during the 1992 American Women's Crossing of Greenland and the 1993 American Women's Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

Recent Acquisitions Newsletter

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 2, 2022

Eric Ahless donation; see below for details.

Recent Acquisitions - April 2022

Welcome to the Minnesota Historical Society’s recent acquisitions update. Our goal here is to share new things coming into the collection to excite, inspire, and maybe even surprise you.



3D Objects

April was a big month for military additions to the collection!

  • Eric Ahless, who served in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 2000s, donated uniforms and other equipment from that period. 
    • Stickers, patches, flags, ID cards, military equipment, field uniforms
    • Wood carving was made by local Afghani artist; imagery is the unit crest
  • Similar items relating to his father, Duane Ahless, who served in Korean, were also donated.
  • Cold War era uniform materials: Donated by veteran Ted Hovey; 1960-1963; complement other military materials, addresses gap of Cold War and Korean War era collections. These are in good condition, with good provenance.
  • WPA embroidered flag: provenance includes being gifted by a former Lt Governor; shows use of textiles within the WPA program. Recreation of original design by Fjelde sisters; material is a synthetic blend and has less conservation issues than original silk; complements other WPA projects + expands documentation of the breadth of the program. No concerns about federal government ownership, as with specific forms (easel works, some fine art).



  • Eric Ahless also donated his personal papers.


  • "La Perch" by Arthur Kerrick: gouache on paper. This came in through another recent acquisition. He was very active during WPA era, mostly doing representational works. In the late 40s he experimented with abstraction and surrealism, this being one of the best examples of his surrealism; this is in good condition (not as faded as most); other surrealist Kerricks are untitled so this is nice. Surrealism did not take off in Minnesota except Kerrick and Bert Ohl.


  • A picture of Forestville site from a time period that is not well documented in our collection. Will be sharing scan with site staff. More information may be coming out of research by site staff. Shot by Fran Hall, professional photographer from Northfield, MN. Only have one other item by him, a portrait, but he was best known for his nature photography so this documents that as well.


  • Law Library Justice Series: Justice James H. Gilbert. Part of the Law Library’s ongoing series covering significant judicial careers. These titles are collections of reports of significant opinions by the justices, with additional biographical information. These titles are used by researchers looking into specific cases, specific justices or the judicial process, and by researchers
  • Ignatius Donnelly’s Cryptogram: Presented for purchase approval in 2016; first signed edition addressed to wife
  • Fred Hagstrom “COVID NURSE”: screenprint/lithograph book artist; does work on timely issues; is offering for purchase his recently completed work on nurses during the COVID19 pandemic; focus on Minnesota nurses & interviews with them; Hagstrom is an artist we have collected in the past & currently has work in Art Speaks. Purchase price $1000. There is some concern that this may be difficult to acquire later as the artist is retired and moving out of state. Will be using private funds. Our COVID collecting has been limited in scope with regards to healthcare workers, so focusing on letting nurses speak adds information & value to documenting their experiences.

State Archives

1.  Agricultural Society.  Century farm applications, dated 2022, which continue the existing set dating from 1976. The records will be digitized, and will join the 1976-2021 records already digitized and available on line  2 folders.

2.  Goodhue County.  Welch Township.  Board meeting minutes dated 2022, and planning commission meeting minutes dated 1998-2022.  The records continue the existing set of Welch Township records, dating from 1878, preserved in the State Archives.  2 bound volumes.

3.  Hastings Veterans Home.  Hospital record (admission and discharge register) dated 1978-2013, and meeting minutes (dated 2022-1016) for committees concerning admissions, designated contributions, residents, root cause analysis, and utilization review. Also, a patient card index (dated circa 1913-1960) of the Hasting State Hospital which complements an existing patient card index preserved in the State Archives.  3 boxes.

4.  Health Department.  Community Cooperative Council on HIV/AIDS Prevention records dated 2010-1015, including revised bylaws, meeting minutes and agenda packets.  The records continue the existing set preserved in the collection dating from 2006.  1 box.

5.  Hennepin County.  Home School.  Records dated 1901-2020.  The records complement existing records of the school preserved in the collection.  7 boxes.


Recently Cataloged Manuscript & State Archives Collections

Newspaper added the Digital Hub!

A content update to the Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub today added 3,288 new issues and 40,098 new pages.

Newly publicly available titles & date spans:

Duluth Minnesota-herald (Duluth, Minn.) 1875-1878

Vårt hem (Minneapolis, Minn.) 1890-1896

Weekly journal (Wabasha, Minn.) 1859-1861

Minnesota patriot (Wabasha, Minn.) 1859

Lake City tribune (Lake City, Minn.) 1857-1860

Ely miner (Ely, Minn.) 1916-1930 added

Askov American (Askov, Minn.) 1923-1925 added

New issues for the years 2019-2020 were also added to many existing current newspaper titles, available to view only in the MNHS Library.

Your thoughts?

Are you interested in specific Minnesota topics or resources you’d like to consider? Let us know!




Happy Pride Month!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 1, 2022

Happy Pride Month!
To kick it off we feature the cover of "Queer," a publication in our collection created by students at Carleton College in 1992.

Like other LGBTQ+ young people in the early 1990s, they reclaimed the slur "queer" as a word of pride that they chose for themselves.

Honoring James Hong

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | May 31, 2022

Two weeks ago, James Hong got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
This acclaimed actor, producer, and director was born in Minneapolis in 1929.
This is a photo of him from our collection in 1935.  From left to right it shows Betty Moy, James Hong, Oy Huie, and Jade Hong. 
Learn more about James Hong's work here:

Happy Memorial Day!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | May 30, 2022

To some of us, Memorial Day means picnics.
Here is an especially fun-looking picnic from 1910; three unidentified women enjoying the great outdoors.
Hope yours is as good!