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.

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Teacher Strike

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 16, 2020

Saint Paul students will return to school today, now that the teachers' strike is over. This strike was the first in Saint Paul since 1946, when the fight was for equal pay for men and women. 
This photo is from the 1946 strike. It lasts over a month and was the first organized teachers’ strike in the country!
Thank you to teachers and all those who work with students!


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 13, 2020

As part of Women's History Month, we want to take a look at some important women authors.
This book is "Spellbinders," written by Margaret Culkin Banning in 1922. 
Banning was an author from Duluth, who wrote thirty-six novels and more than four hundred essays and short stories, usually concerned with the problems of religion, youth, women, and social change. As an advocate for women’s rights, her writings often featured women in non-traditional roles. She started her career around the same time as her better known contemporaries Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Civil War Hardtack

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 12, 2020

This hardtack was issued by the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment to Captain Richard Gorman during the Civil War, 1861 - 1865. Hardtack is a biscuit made from flour, water and salt. It was a staple of the Civil War soldier's diet because it was inexpensive and, when properly stored, lasted for years. Hardtack, while nutritious, could be exceedingly hard and usually had to be soaked (in coffee, bacon fat, or water) before it could be eaten.
This is some really old food, people.

Evening dress

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 11, 2020

This evening dress in sheath-style, made of blue chiffon with gold metallic vertical stripes, was worn in Saint Paul, circa 1925. The sleeves hang freely, giving them a gossamer wing-like effect

Official railroad map of Minnesota

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 10, 2020

This is the official railroad map for the state of Minnesota in 1886.

Snake Handler

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 9, 2020

This carte-de-visite shows a circus snake handler in 1880.

Wind Pants

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 6, 2020

These are the wind pants worn by Ann Bancroft during the 2000-2001 Bancroft-Arnesen Expedition to Antarctica.
Did you happen to notice the theme of wind this week? Welcome to March and Women's History Month too!

Trade Winds

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 5, 2020

This business card is from 1959 and for Trade Winds Restaurant and Bar in Saint Paul. It advertises for good food, liquor, and weekly entertainment nights; it also features a photograph of the Jack White Orchestra. The building was owned by Jack White, who was also a member of the Jack White Orchestra which played at Trade Winds every night. 


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 4, 2020

This weathervane is comprised of painted wooden pieces, metal hardware, a metal globe and mirrors.

It was made in 1975 and originally bolted to the outside of a 2nd floor window frame at the Inner City Youth League at Selby and Victoria in Saint Paul. 


By: Lori Williamson | Collections Up Close | March 3, 2020

This is a qeej (Hmong wind instrument) made by Shong Ger Thao of Saint Paul in 1999. The Hmong language is tonal and Hmong instruments have a tonal quality that allows words to be heard while playing. The Qeej, a free-reed mouth organ, is the most recognizable Hmong instrument and each note can symbolize a word. Qeej players are known as storytellers and often dance while playing. This Qeej is comprised of a wood resonator with a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) mouthpiece and six bamboo pipes.