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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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Bird's-eye view of Duluth and Superior

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 26, 2022

This bird's-eye view of Duluth and Superior is on a tinted postcard from 1908.
The photographer was Thomas Wahl.

History is Now: Real Community Stories from the COVID-19

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 25, 2022

Friends of ours wanted to gather socially, so instead of a virtual/Zoom event, we brought lawn chairs and sat, 20-feet apart on a tennis court in Wayzata!

We are living in a historic moment. Since April, 2020, the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) has been collecting and preserving Minnesotans’ stories related to the COVID-19 health crisis through an online form. Future generations will better understand this pandemic and Minnesotans’ experiences through these stories, some of which are featured online

Thanks to the generosity of those who have shared their experiences thus far, MNHS has collected a variety of stories, photos, objects, and printed works. Many of these document heartbreaking stories of personal loss. Some photos highlight socially distanced gatherings. A t-shirt emblazoned “I Am Not a Virus” was created by Sai Xiong in response to a surge of anti-Asian racism, with 50% of its profit being donated to Asian American communities. And as face masks came into wide use, MNHS purchased one from Makwa Studio's Ribbon Mask Project, designed by local artist Maggie Thompson (Fond du Lac Ojibwe). As writers and artists reflect on the collective experience MNHS continues to purchase published works including a set of 24 ‘zines titled Zines during a pandemic: my experience as someone with high-risk comorbidity sheltering alone by S. Quire. and a set of artist books titled COVID Journal by book artist Julie Baugnet. These three journals created in 2020 contain handmade art inside, reflecting on the COVID-19 quarantine experience as it was happening. 

As Senior Curator Sondra Reierson states: “The Minnesota Historical Society seeks to document how Minnesotans are caring for one another, and how we are using our ingenuity and resources to respond to a global pandemic that has altered the ways we live and work. The economic, political, and social responses and trends, as well as grassroots responses to changes and struggles will help future generations understand and learn from our experiences.” 

On March 1, 2022, MNHS will enter a new phase of collecting. The COVID-19 Health Crisis form will close to new submissions in order for curators to focus pandemic-related collecting in new directions. Please share your experiences before March 1, or submit future offers through the Potential Donation Form

Thanks again and take care.


Tiny Prohibition Era Button

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 21, 2022

This button advocating "Bread not Beer" was created in 1918, two years before Prohibition started in 1920. There is a lot happening on this button: in addition to the plea for bread it also urges "No Repeal;" shows a mountain named "Mount Progress;" and has an eagle with the message "the Eagle Never Flies Backwards." 
Bear in mind that this button is only .75 inches in diameter, which would have made it very difficult to read while one was wearing it to make a point!

National Handwriting Day

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 20, 2022

Today is National Handwriting Day! 
As we know, primary sources are the lifeblood of historical research, and many of these primary sources are handwritten.
This is a letter from Lawrence Taliaferro to Alexis Bailly, written on March 2, 1829.
Taliaferro (U.S. Indian Agent to the Dakota) wrote in response to a letter Alexis Bailly sent Taliaferro on the same day. Taliaferro addresses Bailly's concerns about unfair trading practices and assures Bailly that he treats all of the fur traders in the area equally.
See the letter and its transcription here:
Learn more about Lawrence Taliaferro here:

Parking Ticket

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 19, 2022

This is a parking ticket from Saint Paul, 1931.
The front of the rectangular cardstock tag reads, "YOU HAVE VIOLATED THE TRAFFIC ORDINANCE" and contains fields related to the offense for the officer to fill in. There is a list of offences and their corresponding penalties on the back of the tag. 

Snow Scene

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 18, 2022

This photograph shows a snow scene in 1932.
It forms part of Norton & Peel photograph collection.

Honoring Martin Luther King

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 17, 2022

This year, members of Dr. King's immediate family ask that communities forgo celebrations of MLK Day unless federal leaders take up the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. To honor that, we simply post this reminder of the importance of voting rights. 

This is the cover for the program to the Proceedings of the Convention of Colored Citizens of the State of Minnesota from 1869. This program was presented at the first political convention Black Minnesotans held after gaining the right to vote. The celebration held on January 1, 1869 in St. Paul also marked the creation of the Sons of Freedom, the first African American civil rights group in Minnesota.

At the time this only applied to Black men, not Black women.

Learn More:



Map of the United States

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 14, 2022

This rare map of the United States was made in 1836 by J. Webster.

Winter Hat

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

This is women's tall, faux fur winter hat,with red and black satin lining. It was worn by a member of the LeDuc family in Hastings between 1920-50.

Ann Bancroft

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 12, 2022

This time of year thinking about Antarctica really puts things in perspective.

On January 14, 1993, Ann Bancroft of Saint Paul reached the South Pole by skis, becoming the first woman to travel overland to both the North and South Poles.

MNHS is proud to have an extensive collection of materials Bancroft used and in some cases invented to document her important story. Bancroft is an explorer, educator, and philanthropist who started the Ann Bancroft Foundation dedicated to inspiring and supporting girls in fulfilling their dreams.

Seen here are a pair of cross-country skis used by Ann Bancroft of Minnesota during the 2000-2001 Bancroft-Arnesen Expedition to Antarctica.

Learn More about Minnesota’s Polar Explorers: