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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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Dr. Martin Luther King speaking against war in Vietnam, St. Paul Campus, University of Minnesota

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 17, 2011
Dr. Martin Luther King speaking against war in Vietnam, St. Paul Campus, University of Minnesota
Photographer: St. Paul Pioneer Press
Photograph Collection 4/27/1967
Location no. E455 p4
Negative no. 01471-34

Lifetouch Micro-Z Camera

By: admin | What's New | January 14, 2011
Lifetouch Micro-Z CameraEach day, schools across the country use Minnesota products, be they Big G cereals or Scotch tape. One company, however, comes to class just once a year. Since 1936, Eden Prairie-based Lifetouch Inc. has been photographing students on school picture day. From its start in the Depression-era schoolhouses of rural Minnesota, the company now takes more than 30 million portraits each year, from pre-schoolers to high-schoolers.

The company's growth fostered a number of noteworthy advancements in photography, and few were as important as the Micro-Z camera. Introduced in 1980, the Micro-Z increased efficiency and streamlined photo processing. The innovative camera featured a double-reflex zoom lens, automatic light calibration, a motorized pedestal, and a failure alarm system to alert the photographer if something was wrong. Most significantly, the Micro-Z’s computerized data recorder registered date, package type, and subject information directly onto the film negative via a barcode, making it much easier to match the photo with the student's paperwork.

The durable Micro-Z remained in service for some 25 years and photographed untold millions of students. (This curator has fond memories of posing for Micro-Zs throughout the 1980s.) We are grateful to Lifetouch Inc. for donating this example, together with a TruView camera (used in department store portrait studios), technical manuals, and reminiscences from the people who developed and used this remarkable camera.

Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

George Resler's views of Saint Paul

By: admin | Our Favorite Things | January 14, 2011
Many iconic locations contribute to the personality and identity of the capital city of Saint Paul, Minnesota. George Resler, one of Minnesota’s first printmakers, explores these places as well as the city’s inhabitants and Saint Paul’s skyline as subjects in prints created during the early twentieth century. Ben Gessner, Collections Assistant, presents Resler’s views of the city which served for decades as his inspiration. Selected prints by George Resler will be on display in the Minnesota Historical Society Library Lobby through March 2011.

Surveyor's transit

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 14, 2011
Surveyor's transit

This instrument was used by "Mr. Iron Ore" Hugh M. Roberts, E. J. Longyear, and Percy W. Donovan in surveying the Iron Range at the turn of the 20th century. Housed in a wooden box and made by W. and L.E. Gurley Manufactures, Troy, N.Y. circa 1885.

Stillwater prison key

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 13, 2011
Stillwater prison key

This key was used in the original territorial prison established in Stillwater, Minnesota in 1853. The nine-acre walled facility included 582 cells, a chapel, dining hall, kitchen, and administrative offices. A hospital building was added in 1889. In 1914 a new, far larger prison was built two miles south of the old prison. The key has the word "HOSPITAL" stamped into its head and it opened the outer door to the prison hospital.

Binoculars belonging to a Congressional Medal of Honor winner

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 12, 2011
Binoculars belonging to a Congressional Medal of Honor winner

Brass binoculars and case. Used by Major Henry A. Courtney, Jr., of Duluth, during World War II. Courtney received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions at the Battle of Okinawa. Circa 1940s.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view these binoculars in our collections database.

Bridge score card and tallies

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 11, 2011
Bridge score card and tallies

Decorative bridge set adorned with geometric Art Deco patterns. Manufactured by the Buzza Company of Minneapolis and sold at the Golden Rule Department Store in St Paul for .39 cents, circa 1930s.

St. Paul's Trailblazing Policewoman

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | January 10, 2011
Carolen Bailey was a pioneer for women in law enforcement across the country and especially in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she spent her career proving a woman’s ability to perform the same duties as her male counterparts. Working her way up from the Juvenile Division, Bailey became the first female homicide investigator in Saint Paul in 1969. Collections Assistant Sondra Reierson shares the story of Mrs. Bailey and highlights some of the objects and papers she donated to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1991.


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Bertillon Measuring Device

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 10, 2011
Bertillon Measuring Device
This brass measuring device was used for identifying criminals by measuring skull size. The measurements were part of a method called the Bertillon System, which had been implemented in France in 1882 as a means to identify repeat criminal offenders. This device was collected by a police officer from Saint Paul, Minnesota, circa 1885.

Harold Stassen's hunting jacket

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 7, 2011
Harold Stassen's hunting jacket

Hunting jacket worn by Governor Harold Stassen (1939 - 1943) when he won the 1925-1926 National Collegiate Rifle Association championship.

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