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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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It's The Beatles!

By: admin | What's New | April 7, 2008

As we approach summer and the start of the outdoor concert season, we recall one of Minnesota's most memorable outdoor performances. The Beatles staged their second concert tour of the United States in the late summer of 1965. At this peak of Beatlemania, the Beatles played a mixture of outdoor stadiums and indoor arenas and for fans in Minnesota, that date came on August 21, 1965 at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington.  The images seen here capture the Beatles' landing and their waiting fans at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, interviews with radio sponsor, WDGY and an ecstatic crowd at the stadium that warm evening.  Taken by newspaper photographers, Sully and Neale, these images are part of the Society's St. Paul Dispatch & Pioneer Press negative collection. This event was also captured on camera pf1269901.jpgby local teen Bill Carlson, and his photographs were recently published in The Beatles! A One-Night Stand in the Heartland

Diane Adams-Graf, Sound and Visual Curator

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Images, top to bottom:

The Beatles arrive at Twin Cities Metropolitan Airport

Fans at Beatles Concert. Metropolitan Stadium

The Beatles Concert at Metropolitan Stadium

1950s Fashion in the MHS Collection

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | April 7, 2008
Curator Linda McShannock explores 1950s fashion through dresses, hats, shoes and accessories in the Minnesota Historical Society's collection.

Fashion was the focus of the first in the Society's popular series of RetroRama programs. The next RetroRama event takes place on May 15, 2008.


Looking Back/Moving Forward: Recent Acquisitions to the Art Collection

By: admin | What's New | April 1, 2008
On view at the James J. Hill House through April 20, 2008

View of Mendota by Seth Eastman
In addition to interpretation and preservation, a primary responsibility of a curator is to build and expand the collection for which he or she is responsible.

This exhibition highlights some of the more notable acquisitions to the art collection over the last five years. The fifty works included here represent only a percentage of the art that has come to the Minnesota Historical Society and an even smaller fraction of the literally thousands of items acquired by the Society each year.

The title, "Looking Back/Moving Forward" refers to the fact that while the Society collects the art of the past (sometimes the very recent past!) it is always with an eye toward the future. Curators continually evaluate the interpretive value of an object for future generations.

It Takes a Whole Lot of Human Feeling by Rose J SmithAt the Society, not only are we charged with telling the story of our past, we also have a duty to tell the story of our present. That is why along with such 19th century masters as Eastman, Volk and Fournier and such modern masters as Wedin, Brown, Havens and Quirt, you’ll also find tomorrow’s masters such as Smith, Griffiths, Lynch and Swiszcz.

We have all heard the expression “every picture tells a story.” At the Minnesota Historical Society--if we’re lucky--our pictures tell many stories. Interpreting art through a historical context provides opportunities not available to other institutions. At the Society, a work of art becomes a portal through which the viewer can discover unique aspects of Minnesota’s history.

As Minnesota commemorates the 150th anniversary of statehood in 2008, we will acknowledge and celebrate those things that distinguish our state. One of Minnesota’s great accomplishments is its long tradition of art making. It is a mark of excellence for which we should be very proud.

Brian Szott, Curator of Art

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Army Nurse Ernestine Koranda

By: admin | Our Favorite Things | March 19, 2008
Army nurse Lieutenant Ernestine Koranda administers an injection.By many measures, the MHS Collections are vast.  You can lose yourself in them, figuratively, or—if you have call to enter collections storage areas—you may indeed become lost.  (Yes, some storage spaces are that big.)  I prefer another measure: the poignancy of one person's life.  In the case of Ernestine Koranda, one learns of the art and profession of nursing, the excitement and toils of wartime duty, and the grief occasioned by a premature death.

Shortly after graduating from Wadena High in 1930, Koranda enrolled at St. Paul's Ancker Hospital School of Nursing.  It's unlikely she anticipated World War II, her Army nurse duties, or her eventual deployment to Papua New Guinea.  She certainly could not have guessed that, as a result, her life would be documented in the MHS Collections.

If nicknames are endearments, then "Ernie" (to her Ancker classmates) and "Carmen" (to some of her fellow Army nurses) was well thought of.  A child during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, nurse Koranda specialized in contagious and children's diseases.  While serving in the Army, Lieutenant Koranda fell in love.  She and fiancé Bob Middleton were to be married over Christmas 1943.  Tragically, Koranda's plane crashed en route to Sydney, Australia, leaving no survivors.  The Army named a hospital ship in her honor—one of a select few so recognized before war's end.Lieutenant Esther Berg escorts Lieutenant Ernestine Koranda's body to St. Paul, Minnesota.

Ms. Koranda's life is documented variously in the MHS Collections.  Her student-nursing yearbook is in the book collection.  Her own image and words, as well as condolence letters, are in a manuscript collection.  In an oral history interview, fellow Ancker student Minna (Moehring) Freiberg remembers Ernestine as "a nice girl" and "a good nurse."  The ship USAHS Ernestine Koranda can be seen in the photograph collection.  Her autographed student-nurse bib (pictured below) and funerary flag are in the three-dimensional collection.  And the St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press's coverage of her returned remains is in the newspaper negative collection and newspaper microfilm collection (photo at right of friend with Koranda's coffin).

The MHS Collections document historical epochs.  They can also illuminate personal experience.  Ideally, they serve both ends, as they do for Ernestine Koranda's nursing career.

Christopher Welter, Government Records Assistant

Autographed corner of Koranda's student nurse bib.

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Fergus Falls State Hospital Papers

By: admin | What's New | March 19, 2008

Fergus Falls State Hospitalward-leave-card.jpg

Originally commissioned in 1885 by the State of Minnesota as the Third State Asylum for the Mentally Ill, the Fergus Falls State Hospital/Regional Treatment Center received its first patients in 1890.  The facility was self-sufficient with its own farm, food service, laundry, workshops and power plant.  The institution served 17 counties in northwestern and west central Minnesota, with the patient census reaching an all-time high of 2,078 in 1937,  The regional treatment center was one of the first multi-purpose campuses, serving those with developmental disabilities, chemical dependency as well as psychiatric illnesses.  For the past two decades patients have been moved to smaller community based facilities, and in 2007 the campus buildings were sold to the City of Fergus Falls

Selected historical records of the Fergus Falls State Hospital/Regional Treatment Center are preserved in the Minnesota State Archives, and with a few exceptions, are available for public use.

Fergus Falls Hospital LaundryFF State Hospital Laundry workers


Civilian Conservation Corps

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | March 12, 2008
This month marks the 75th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps, established March 31, 1933. Curator Matt Anderson commemorates the occasion with a look at CCC pieces in the Minnesota Historical Society's collection. (4 min. 32 sec. / 11.7 MB)

The CCC is a focus of the Minnesota's Greatest Generation project. Visit MGG's In Their Words site to read accounts from CCC participants. Explore John Buskowiak's trunk through a virtual presentation. Add your CCC story (or that of a friend or relative) to MGG's Share Your Story site. Visit the State Historic Preservation Office site to search for surviving Minnesota CCC structures, including Camp Rabideau in Beltrami County. Purchase a copy of Hard Work and a Good Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Minnesota in the Online Store.

Foley World War II Canteen Set

By: admin | What's New | March 4, 2008
Canteen setThis humble canteen set, issued by the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, actually is a remarkable item. The canteen itself was made by the Vollrath Company of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, but the cup was made by the Foley Manufacturing Company of Minneapolis. The pieces were built to standard military specifications so, even though they were made 340 miles apart, the canteen fits inside the cup just as it should.

Prior to the war, Foley established itself as a successful cookware manufacturer. Its signature product, the Foley Food Mill, was an early hand-cranked version of the modern electric food processor. After Pearl Harbor, Foley joined many other U.S. companies in turning over its production facilities to wartime use. Given Foley's experience with kitchen components, it was only natural that it be selected to produce canteens and mess kits for American soldiers overseas.

The canteen set is a welcome addition to the collection, and it reminds us of the many crucial efforts made on the home front during the struggle of 1941-1945.

Cup handle, reads “U.S. / FOLEY MFG. CO. / 1944″Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

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Selections from the Bishop Whipple Collection of American Indian Art

By: admin | What's New | March 4, 2008


"Selections from the Bishop Whipple Collection of American Indian Art," on view Feb. 15 - April 13 [PLEASE NOTE: THIS EXHIBIT IS NOW CLOSED.] at the Minnesota History Center, is presented in cooperation with the Science Museum of Minnesota.

The exhibit features examples of traditional quillwork, beaded garments, bandolier bags, as well as a variety of objects and lace produced at mission schools in Minnesota.

To learn more about Bishop Whipple and the exhibit, please visit:

Bishop Whipple Collection of American Indian Art Podcast

Selections from Bishop Whipple Collection Exhibit

or come to the History Center!


Bishop Whipple Collection of American Indian Art

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | February 20, 2008
Senior Curator Marcia Anderson gives a brief overview of the new exhibit Selections from the Bishop Whipple Collection of American Indian Art, now on view at the Minnesota History Center. This podcast includes biographical information about Bishop Whipple as well as a closer look at a few pieces from his fabulous collection. (6 min. / 3.64 MB)

I-35W Bridge Mile Marker Sign

By: admin | What's New | February 19, 2008
Mile marker sign from I-35W bridge

The Minnesota Historical Society's primary collecting mission is to document people and events from the past. It is rare for us to collect present-day items because, without the benefit of hindsight, it is difficult to identify significant objects and events. The collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge across the Mississippi River on August 1, 2007, was an important exception.

In the days after the disaster, MHS curators discussed how best to document it in the Society's collection. Steel bridge girders are impressive, but they are difficult to move, exhibit and store, so we opted instead for smaller pieces. Road signs seemed an obvious choice, and a sign clearly connected to the bridge would be better still. The Minnesota Department of Transportation recommended a mile marker sign, and in October the Society took possession of the sign for mile 18.4, which stood on the northbound lane at the time of the collapse.

From a curator's perspective, the sign is an ideal artifact from the tragedy. It is quickly recognizable to viewers, is branded with the I-35W identification shield, and is directly connected to the bridge (the I-35W bridge stood between miles 18.3 and 18.7).  The sign is just one of several pieces the Society has collected from this event, but it will remain one of the most poignent.

Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

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