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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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Pinn Family Dolls

By: admin | Our Favorite Things | January 16, 2008
The Pinn Family dolls, simple dolls made from common household clothespins, come straight out of the Great Depression and the imagination of a Minnesota designer. Not only do they represent the simplicity and make-do attitude of the era, but they also give us a glimpse of an imagined family growing up in Minnesota. Their names reflect some clever double meanings: father, "Ty Pinn," mother, "Hattie Pinn," daughters, "Beauty Pinn," and "Clo Pinn," son, "Harry Pinn," and "Baby Pinn." This set of dolls was given to a young Wisconsin girl who summered in Forest Lake, Minnesota, and kept them safe in their original boxes. 

Pinn Family dollsThe original Schoenhut Company and its dolls didn't survive the Depression. Reorganized in 1935, the Otto Schoenhut Company of Philadelphia added Emily Myers's Pinn Family dolls to its product line and brought Myers, a Minnesota designer, to Philadelphia to teach employees how to paint the features and accessorize the dolls. In the late 1930s, Myers ended her contract with Schoenhut and manufactured the dolls herself from her home in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. 

Emily T. Myers (1886-1971) produced and sold individual collegiate dolls and Pinn Family dolls by mail order and at the Minnesota State Fair through the 1940s.

Linda McShannock, Objects Curator

WCCO-TV Goes Behind the Scenes at MHS

By: admin | What's New | January 10, 2008
WCCO-TV reporter Jeanette Trompeter recently peeked behind the scenes of the Minnesota Historical Society's History Center. Trompeter interviewed curators Linda McShannock and Matt Anderson about interesting pieces from the Society's collection, including a handgun used to wound John Dillinger, a duster worn by a James-Younger Gang member during the Northfield Raid, and pieces of Munsingwear underwear.

See Trompeter's report here:

Camera Ojibwe - The Photos

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | January 9, 2008
Diane Adams-Graf, Curator of Sound & Visual Collections, and Marcia Anderson, Senior Curator, discuss photographs featured in the 2007 exhibit "Camera Ojibwe."

We Are at Home, the book by Bruce White that inspired "Camera Ojibwe," is available in the Online Store.


28th Virginia Infantry Battle Flag Captured at Gettysburg

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | December 17, 2007
Objects Curator Matt Anderson takes a look at the Virginia battle flag captured by the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry during Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. (3 min. 15 sec. / 8.42 MB)


Andersen Corporation Archives

By: admin | What's New | December 12, 2007

Boxes of Andersen Corporation materialThe long anticipated donation of the Andersen Corporation Archives has arrived at the Minnesota Historical Society. The collection consists of more than 240 cubic feet of manuscript records and three-dimensional objects! We are thrilled to add this major Minnesota company to the many businesses represented in our collections.

Danish immigrant Hans Jacob Andersen and his family founded Andersen Lumber Company in 1903 in Hudson, Wisconsin, where the logs arrived via the St. Croix River. In 1905, Hans introduced an innovative "two-bundle" method of designing and shipping unassembled window frames. By producing bundled pairs of horizontal and vertical window frame sections, Andersen streamlined frame production and simplified mass distribution. This was the first of many innovations for Andersen Corporation. Hans Andersen sold his lumber business in 1908 to focus on window frames, but returned to the retail lumber industry in 1916. The privately owned business moved across the St. Croix River in 1913 to South Stillwater (now Bayport), Minnesota.

017.jpgToday the Andersen Corporation remains headquartered in Bayport and employs more than 9,000 people across the United States. The company celebrated its centennial in 2003 with a pledge to build 100 homes with Habitat for Humanity. Andersen finished its 100th home this year.

The manuscript portion of the Andersen collection contains Andersen family papers and corporate records from the 1870s-2005. The records include employee newsletters, product catalogs, price lists, advertising, legal files, trade mark and patent documents, sales information, product installation manuals, photographs, audio-visual materials and much more. Together these records document the people and facilities of Andersen Corporation, its predecessors and its subsidiary companies.Andersen window sales sample, apron, tools and sign

The object portion of the collection features a number of important pieces including - naturally - windows.  Two pairs of early 20th Century "two-bundle" frames represent Andersen's first innovation. One double-hung window, complete with frame, represents the most widespread window style. A sales sample of a Fibrex® window - made from a composite of vinyl and wood fibers reclaimed from the manufacturing process - characterizes one of the company's more recent innovations.

Other three-dimensional pieces include a set of drafting tools used by Fred C. Andersen (son of Hans), a carpenter's square, a shop apron, and an Army-Navy "E" Award pennant presented in recognition of Andersen's substantial production of ammunition boxes during World War II.

Molly Tierney, Curator of Manuscripts

Matt Anderson, Objects Curator (who spells it "s-o-n")

Franzman Altar: 03 Installation

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | November 21, 2007
Watch Minnesota Historical Society staff members as they move the altar from the basement Conservation Lab and install it in the MN150 gallery. (2 min. 40 sec. / 13.1 MB)

Franzman Altar: 02 Object and Textile Treatments

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | November 21, 2007
Watch Conservators Tom Braun and Ann Frisina clean and repair the altar to prepare it for display in MN150. (6 min. 5 sec. / 30.2 MB)

Franzman Altar: 01 Introduction and Unpacking

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | November 21, 2007
Senior Curator Marcia Anderson shares the story behind the church altar carved by John Franzman and now on display in the MN150 exhibit. Objects Conservator Tom Braun is seen unpacking the altar's components as they arrive at the Minnesota Historical Society. (3 min. 10 sec. / 15.4 MB)

Looking Back/Moving Forward

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | November 21, 2007
Brian Szott, Curator of Art, shares five of his favorite new additions to the Minnesota Historical Society's fine art collection. (3 min. 38 sec. / 2.08 MB)

I-35W Bridge Resources at the Minnesota Historical Society

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | November 21, 2007
Shawn Rounds, Government Records Specialist, describes plans, photographs and records from the Interstate 35W bridge across the Mississippi River that collapsed on August 1, 2007. (3 min. 33 sec. / 17.3 MB)

Find more on the bridge at the Minnesota Historical Society Library's I-35W Bridge Resources page.