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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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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.

Pulp Fiction

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | November 21, 2007
Acquisitions Librarian Patrick Coleman takes a look at the seamy, steamy and entertaining world of Minnesota pulp fiction. (5 min. 12 sec. / 26 MB)

Explore more books from the 1930s through the 1950s with the Books of an Era timeline at the Minnesota's Greatest Generation In Their Words web site.

County School Records

By: admin | What's New | November 15, 2007
County school recordsThis collage depicts selected records of the King School, which was located in Belfast Township in Murray County. The items pictured are souvenir booklets (1930s) presented by the teacher to her students, teachers' contracts from the school board clerk's book (1890s), and a page from a school attendance register. Seventy years ago, in the 1930s, more than 8,000 school districts existed in Minnesota, many of which were one-room schoolhouses. In the 1950s and 1960s the "country schools" consolidated or merged with larger independent school districts, and state-wide all school districts were renumbered. Now there are just over 400 school districts in Minnesota. School records are a valuable resource not only for family history research, but also for local history. Often the schoolhouse was a community center, and several generations in a family would attend the same school.

While not all school district records in the State Archives collection are as colorful as these, the information a researcher can find about students, teachers, and school buildings is rich. The State Archives currently preserves records of about 3,000 rural and independent school districts. Many of the records are the official records (meeting minutes, school board election results, summaries of receipts and expenditures) of the school district clerk and treasurer, but there are also teachers' class record books and attendance registers, school censuses, photographs, and much more. There is lots of information listing the kids who attended individual schools, who their teachers were, what subject the pupils were taught, and the books they read.

Learn More:

Search the Library Catalog by:

1. the county name and school district number,
2. the name of the school, or
3. the township or city name and the term "school," plus the county name if the township or city is a common name.

Search the Visual Resources Database to find individual photographs of schools by:

1. the county name and school district number,
2. the name of the school, or
3. the township or city name and the term "school," plus the county name if the township or city is a common name.

Schoolhouses of Minnesota By: Photography by Doug Ohman

Family History Resources: School Records