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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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Ben's Last Day

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | April 1, 2022

Ben's post:

"I'm so proud of what is (probably) my last acquisition for the MNHS Collections.

I admire Rachel King-Siert so much. Among many other things, she is an amazing textile artist with an almost unending amount of generosity. To me, this is a perfect acquisition, documenting what so many of us here in the Twin Cities -and Nationwide - have been feeling over the past two years.

During the pandemic, Rachel's friends, family, and community members were publicly taking action and protesting the murder of George Floyd. She pivoted from feeling scared and helpless to being in service to the community. She writes,

“I don’t usually make quilts; I DO hate wasting anything. My "2020 Craziness Quilt" was made with some of the scraps from the “frantic Rachel making thousands of mask” stage of 2020 COVID and protests in Minneapolis......The only thing I could think of to be helpful was to keep making masks and donating them… I know I made over 2000 masks but quit counting after that.”

I really believe this quilt, which was made with love and comfort for her family and friends, enriches the way we will talk about and remember these historic moments we've collectively been experiencing.

So much love and respect, Rachel."

Love, respect, and thanks to you too, Ben. 

Happy Transgender Visibility Day!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 31, 2022

Today, March 31, is International Transgender Day of Visibility. This annual event is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by them worldwide, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society.
This book was created by Minneapolis artist Archie Bongiovanni in 2018. From the publisher's description: "...this short and fun comic guide that explains what pronouns are, why they matter, and how to use them. They also include what to do if you make a mistake, and some tips-and-tricks for those who identify outside of the binary to keep themselves safe in this binary-centric world."

Gun that shot Dillinger

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 30, 2022

Tomorrow, March 31, is the anniversary of the shootout between gangster John Dillinger and Saint Paul police at Lincoln Court Apartments, on the corner of Grand and Lexington.


Saint Paul was known as a haven for gangsters in the 1930s; so long as they did not commit crimes in the city, the authorities would look the other way.


John Dillinger and his girlfriend Evelyn “Billie” Frechette came to Saint Paul in March 1934 after robbing a bank in Mason City, Iowa and rented a room at the Lincoln Court Apartments.  The apartment manager grew suspicious of the couple, and reported them to the FBI. On March 31 two FBI agents, joined by Detective Henry Cummings of the St. Paul Police Department, knocked on the apartment door. Frechette stalled, an accomplice stumbled onto the scene, and a gunfight erupted. Dillinger burst into the hallway firing a machine gun and fled down a back stairway, but not before being hit in the leg by Detective Cummings.


Dillinger escaped and fled to Chicago; he was later killed there in an ambush on July 22. Detective Cummings, a 26-year veteran of the St. Paul force, retired shortly after the Lincoln Court shoot out. After he died, Cummings's heirs donated his Model 1905 Smith & Wesson Hand-Ejector revolver to the Minnesota Historical Society. This .38 gun is the very weapon Cummings fired at Dillinger on that fateful day. 


Learn more about Saint Paul’s gangster history here.


Peak 1985

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 29, 2022

This photo is peak 1985.
It is of Brian Richardson in sunglasses at Bde Maka Ska,  Minneapolis.
The photographer is Charles Chamblis. See more of his work here.


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 28, 2022

This photos shows a checker tournament in Logan Park, Minneapolis in 1934.
Soon it will be time for outdoor games again! Right?
Until then, find photos that amuse or interest you in our online database!


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 25, 2022

Since we are observing Water Week within Women's History Month, today we share a painting by Clara Mairs. 
It is titled "Swimmers" and undated.
Mairs was an painter, printmaker, and decorative artist active over a long period. Learn more about her here:
And see a few of her painting in person in the "Art Speaks" exhibit!

Bill on the Ice

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 24, 2022

Continuing on our spring and water themes of the week, we were looking for something to represent ice out (when bodies of water are finally freed of ice). This photo, however, was too strangely funny not to share. Maybe next year, Bill!
This photo shows a man, possibly named Bill, out ice-fishing with his home made shelter. It forms part of Minneapolis and St. Paul Newspaper Negative Collection and is dated 1948.

Rain Coat and matching hat

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 23, 2022

This women's reptile skin print vinyl raincoat and matching hat were made and worn by Bess Stiegler of Minneapolis, circa 1970s. 

World Water Day

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 22, 2022

Today is World Water Day. World Water Day is held every year on March 22, to celebrate water and raises awareness of the 2 billion people living without access to safe water.
Today's item is a Civil Defense half-gallon water carton. It was produced by the United States Army, Corps of Engineers and distributed in Duluth, 1975-76.

Spring Storm

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 21, 2022

This acrylic painting is titled "Spring Storm: Red River Valley." It was painted in 1984 by Carl Oltvedt.
This kicks off our Water-themed week! Also it's officially Spring now; we made it!