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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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Catch the News!

By: admin | What's New | February 12, 2009

Catch the news!  View news clips from one of the country's premiere television news film collections, KSTP-TV Archive.  Completed in 2008 to celebrate the State's sesquicentennial and KSTP's sixtieth anniversary, a new web page highlights the KSTP-TV Archive.

The complete archive holds over 3 million feet of news film (1948-1976) and 2,500 videotapes (1976-1993).  KSTP Channel 5 was one of the first full-color stations, and the first station in the Midwest to air a daily newscast. The currently posted segments are part of 150 news clips being digitized for web delivery.  The selection provides a glimpse of the people, events, tragedies and triumphs captured by KSTP Channel 5 in Minnesota, for the second half of the twentieth century.  See 1949 footage of a U.S. Navy blimp, the Como Lake ice skating races in 1964, and the 1979 gas lines, among many others.

Copies of these clips are also available for purchase. The full 1960s decade featured here will also be available for purchase on DVD in mid 2009. Submit the KSTP Request Form to the Minnesota Historical Society for research, purchase, or use. Watch as more segments are added to bring our total to 150 clips in 2009!

Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc. gave the KSTP-TV Archive to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1994. Since then, the 16 mm news film has been cleaned, spliced, cataloged, and rehoused in a secure and climate-controlled storage area.  The news film is cataloged in the Society's Collection Management System, for which a search interface is currently being developed. This will allow for online research of the full database.

The Minnesota Historical Society continues to promote long-term care, create further information, and provide access to this important news archive.  Welcome to the KSTP-TV Archive!

Diane Adams-Graf, Sound and Visual Curator

White Bear Sno Scooter

By: admin | What's New | January 30, 2009

White Bear Sno Scooter

With winter cold and snow abundant, children around the state are taking out their sleds and heading for the hills. Some of them might wish they had one of these beauties: a Sno Scooter built by the White Bear Water Ski Company.

This scooter belonged to a St. Paul family that purchased it in the late 1950s. The donor recalled riding it with his brother and sister for several seasons - and discovering that the scooter worked best in deep snow. In later years, the donor's own children enjoyed the scooter, making it a multi-generation tradition.

Here at the Society, the Sno Scooter will complement a water ski board, made by the same White Bear Lake-based company, already in the collection. The two pieces remind us of Minnesota's contrasting seasons, and the unique recreational pleasures that each one brings.

The White Bear Water Ski Company is gone, but other companies continue to make their own versions of the snow scooter. (Some are even motorized!) This example may have made its last run, but it can still provide some fun, if only in the form of happy winter memories.

Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

Sno Scooter logo

Day in the Life of Dan Cagley, Collections Manager

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | January 23, 2009
How do the Historical Society's objects move into exhibits, or in and out of the building? To find out, we throw the spotlight on one of the solid citizens of the Society, our unheralded Collections Manager Dan Cagley. He keeps over 250,000 3–D objects safe and available. We follow Dan over the course of a typical busy day as he processes new acquisitions, creates a mount, and pulls and returns objects in storage.


A Dark Chapter in Minnesota’s Political History

By: admin | 150 Best Minnesota Books | January 20, 2009

The last time the economy sucked this bad and left wing of the political spectrum was in the ascendency, the right wing used every possible trick to bring them down. In the 1938 gubernatorial race a book was published that was so repugnant that it makes our list of 150 best books.

Ray P. Chase. Are They Communists or Catspaws: A Red Baiting Article. Anoka: N. p., 1938.

Chase was an Anoka publisher who had run for governor in 1930 and served one term in Congress from 1933 -1935. In the heated Governor's race between Farmer-Labor incumbent Elmer Benson and "boy wonder" Harold Stassen, Chase wrote and published a small book trying to prove a link between the current administration and the Communist Party. The five examples he used, however, were all Jewish. This was a blatant introduction of anti-Semitism into Minnesota politics. Some of Chase's examples were not even that close to Gov. Benson and seem to have been chosen simply because they looked so Jewish. In response the Farmer-Labor party produced a leaflet saying that this "expensively gotten up book" "smack[ed] of the tactics of the fascists of Europe" They demonstrated that Chase's book altered photos to smear the Governor.

Chase embraced the pejorative term "red baiting" saying "radicals bait America and everything American". The term "catspaws" refer to people who are manipulated by Communists. Chase disingenuously writes that "Communists are entitled to respect for their courage. Catspaws who accept their support and deny their acquaintance are entitled to somewhat less respect".

Epilogue: Catspaws helped defeat Benson but the "silver lining" was that it prompted the organization, Jewish Community Relations Council, to combat local anti-Semitism like this. They have been doing good work for the last 80 years.

Minnesota Electoral College Assembly Records Transferred to the Minnesota State Archives

By: admin | What's New | January 16, 2009

A few days ago the Minnesota Secretary of State's office transferred records of the Minnesota Electoral College Assembly that occurred on December 15, 2008.  On that day, Minnesota's ten Electors unanimously cast votes for Barack Obama and Joseph Biden for president and vice president in a ceremony held in the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda.  Pictured here are the ballots cast by Minnesota's slate of ten Electors from the Democratic-Farmer Labor Party.  Under the U.S. Constitution, Minnesota is provided ten Electors, a number equal to Minnesota's number of senators and representatives seated in the U.S. Congress.  Also transferred with the ballots, is a photograph of the Electors with Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, the original signed Certificate of Ascertainment of Appointment of Electors for President and Vice President, a news release about the ceremony, the assembly program, and a engraved pen of the type used for the signings.   Answers to frequently asked questions about the Electoral College are available on the Secretary of State's Web site homepage.

Cased Images – Daguerreotypes and Tintypes

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | January 5, 2009
Just what is the difference between a daguerreotype and a tintype? Photo curator Diane Adams-Graf explains what distinguishes these two early photographic processes. Actual daguerreotypes and tintypes are pulled apart and viewed in detail. (3 min. 8 sec.)

All Tractors, All the Time

By: admin | What's New | December 18, 2008

Interested in photographs of tractors?  The Minnesota Historical Society is the place to look!

The Minneapolis-Moline Negative Collection is now available to the public.  This collection holds 14,180, black and white negatives of tractors, agricultural implements, machinery, and power units manufactured by that company between the 1930s and 1960s. Each of these images is described in a searchable list now available in the Society's online library catalog.  In addition, almost 2,000 of them have been printed and can be viewed in the online Photo and Art Database. Any image can  be ordered from the Library's Copy Service.

The Minneapolis-Moline Company was formed in 1929 and located in Hopkins, Minnesota. Many images in this collection depict Minneapolis-Moline tractors, implements, and power units, in the factory or dealer showroom or working in farm fields or other outdoor settings. There are also images with perspectives of machinery parts for use in sales publications. A large number depict the interior and exterior of factories, especially the Hopkins and Lake Street plants. There are aerial views of the factories, closer views of specific factory buildings and machinery, as well as views of company dealerships and branch offices around the United States. The Minneapolis-Moline Company's commercial photographer, Arthur H. Jensen, photographed these images and donated them to the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) in 1975.

The cataloging needs for a collection this size required years of time, people and resources. The Minneapolis-Moline Collectors group, its many supporters and other enthusiasts, contributed gifts of both funds and labor toward documenting this collection. Other volunteers and Society staff scanned and cataloged material in recent years, and the Society is now able to provide full access to this important and vast collection of images.

The only immediate and remaining task for this collection is to follow-up on a 1995 recommendation to sleeve the negatives. Over 50% of the collection is covered by red opaque (masking) that is flaking off the negatives.  Almost the entire collection of negatives is covered with scratches.  It was recommended that buffered, acid-free, enclosures be used to sleeve the negatives. This final step is an important one to advancing the preservation of the Minneapolis-Moline Negative Collection.  We hope to secure funds for this important, preservation effort, in the coming year.

Diane Adams-Graf, Sound and Visual Curator

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Merry Christmas from Minnesota's Best Books

By: admin | 150 Best Minnesota Books | December 18, 2008

“Were you trying to lose my job for me? Ruin me?”
“I knew the little pup,” said French. “He’s a thief. I did what I had to do.”
“Since when did you start passing judgment on children?”
“Since I became Santa Claus.”
“And next summer, if you’re still Staggerford’s Indian? You’ll pass judgment on the tourist kids?”
French chuckled at himself in the mirror. “An Indian doesn’t pass judgment. That’s Santa’s job.”

Getting tired of the same old Christmas stories? Both Jon Hassler and J. F. Powers [see the last blog] wrote Christmas stories for the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts [MCBA], series of “Winter Books”. Hassler’s 1988 Staggerford’s Indian is the tale of French, a down and out Indian with PTSD, who gets a job as Santa in the town’s department store. It was the MCBA’s first Winter Book. Power’s The Old Bird: A Love Story, a sweet –not saccharin- story of an old man who gets a job near the holidays, was the 1991 Winter Book.

Like all the books in this series these titles are as beautiful as artifacts as they are as literature. For the most part, they are hand printed on hand made paper, illustrated, and very elegantly bound. The Minnesota Historical Society Library has a complete run of the MCBA Winter Books and I would encourage you to come take a look.

Other Minnesota Christmas stories we should hear about?

The Hill Family Collection

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | December 16, 2008
Early in 2008 the papers of legendary Minnesota businessman James J. Hill and several of his family members were transferred from the James J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul to the Minnesota History Center, just a few blocks away. In this podcast, learn about the history and contents of the collection and the reasons for the move, and catch a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the incredible process of relocating almost 2500 boxes of valuable historical documents, photographs, books and artifacts.

The Campaign Trail: Minnesota’s Historic Role in Modern Politics

By: admin | What's New | December 9, 2008

Political campaigns are chaotic, frenzied affairs and the best way to peer into this process is through the lens of a camera. Fortunately, Minnesota is blessed with having some of the best documentary photographers in the field. The exhibition, The Campaign Trail: Minnesota's Historic Role in Modern Politics examines campaign photography by featuring work by three talented and dedicated political photographers in Minnesota-Tom Arndt, Terry Gydesen and Ann Marsden. Each has been documenting the political scene for many years, providing an important visual document for future generations. In particular, Tom Arndt and Terry Gydesen's thoughtful and sensitive chronicle of the Mondale and Wellstone campaigns provide an in depth portrait of the candidate and his campaign.

Come see an exhibit of these fascinating images on view at the James J. Hill House Gallery until Feb. 22, 2009.

Above photo by Tom Arndt