Collections Up Close

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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And now for the yearly Fruit Cake...

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 22, 2021

We may not regularly eat Fruit Cake, but it is fun to contemplate this time of year.
Enjoy this page from "Festive Christmas Foods from Many Lands," published by Saint Paul's own Brown & Bigelow Company in 1958.


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 21, 2021

Since it is THE cookie season, please enjoy this short selection of cookie-related titles from our Library Collection.
Watch here:

Library Hours - Holiday Edition

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 20, 2021

Please be aware that the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota Historical Society will be closed this Friday, 12/23, and Saturday, 12/24.
The Library will be open the following Friday, 12/31, but close on Saturday, 01/01/2022.
Appointments are still required; make those here:
Happy Holidays and all best for the year ahead!

Winter Scarf

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 16, 2021

This man's wool scarf was used by Dr. John L. Scofield of Northfield. Scofield represented Rice County as a member of the first Minnesota state legislature from 1857-1859. The scarf has a geometrical print, fringed ends, and purple, green, red and black decorative stripes. It was used in 1865.

Evening Dress

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 15, 2021

We think this evening dress would have been very appropriate at holiday parties of the past.
It is made of silk chiffon over white satin and sequined black Chantilly lace. The dressmaker was Mrs. George F. Hall of Chicago, circa 1905.


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 14, 2021

This winter landscape, titled "Snowscape," shows bare tree trunks silhouetted against snow-covered hills. 
It was made by Alexander Oja as part of the WPA art project between 1935 - 1943. 

Sinclair Lewis's Nobel Prize

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 13, 2021

Sinclair Lewis was the first American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930. 
Come see his Prize for yourself; it is on display now in the "Sinclair Lewis: 100 Years of Main Street" which closes January 2, 2022!
This photo from 1919 shows Sinclair Lewis working in the usual furnished room he rented for writing in Minneapolis.

Human Rights Day!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 10, 2021

Human Rights Day is observed every December 10, which is the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
Cool, but what's the Minnesota connection? 
The United Nations itself was brought into being after World War II through the work of many people, including Minnesota's own Harold Stassen.
Stassen is seen here signing the United Nations charter in 1945.
Learn more about Stassen's political, Naval, and diplomatic careers in MNopeida and in LibGuides.

University Avenue Streetcar

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 9, 2021

On this date, December 9 in 1890, the University Avenue streetcar line from Minneapolis to St. Paul began operation. It was soon referred to as the “Interurban,” since it connected the two downtown. 
This route became one of the busiest streetcar lines in the TCRT (Twin Cities Rapid Transit) system, with large numbers of passengers and frequent service - every seven minutes off peak, every three minutes during peak times. Additionally, the Midway area between the two downtowns became its own commercial and industrial corridor because of the line.
There were few changes to the route over time. It operated from 1890 - 1953, when the streetcars were replaced by buses. Of course, the Green Line Light Rail opened in 2014, following much the same path as the earlier Interurban line. 

This map from the collection shows the major streetcar lines in 1891.
Twin City Map: St. Paul - Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was created by the Minnesota Transfer Board of Trade.

Remembering Robert Bly

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 8, 2021

Renown Minnesota poet, essayist, and editor Robert Bly passed away this past November. He was a giant in the literary landscape, winning several awards including: the National Book Award (1968) for "The Light Around the Body" (1967), the McKnight Distinguished Artist award in 2000, and the Minnesota Book Awards Humanities Prize for Literature (2006). Bly was named Minnesota’s first Poet Laureate in 2008.
Today we share his first published work, "Silence in the Snowy Fields" (1962) and his best seller, "Iron John: a Book about Men" (1990).