Minnesota Local History

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Advice and help with building history capacity.

The Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services helps Minnesotans preserve and share their history. This blog is a resource of best practices on the wide variety of museum, preservation, conservation, funding, and non-profit management topics. We’re here to help.

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Low Cost Useful Web Technology

By: grabitsdm | Information Technology | February 18, 2009
On February 17, 2009, Randal Rust, a consultant with R Squared Communications, stated on the Small Museums listserv: "Right now, I am putting money into research and development that will hopefully result in low-cost options for small museums and historical societies to better make use of the web."

How much are small museums willing to spend to make better use of the web? And, what sorts of applications do small museums desire to use?

Do You Use Social Media?

By: warnerm | Information Technology | January 27, 2009
I spend a fair amount of time, mostly personal, online and while there, I am continually looking for museum people hanging out within various social media networks. I'm not having much luck with this. There appears to be a dearth of museum professionals using social media (and other Web 2.0 tools). I'm more than willing to admit that this perceived shortage is not really a shortage at all. It could be that I'm not looking in the right places. In order to find Minnesota's online museum community, I think a more direct approach is needed, thus this post.

If you are a museum professional, do you use any of the following social media/Web 2.0 tools either professionally or personally?

Blog (WordPress, Blogger, other?)






Feed Readers (Bloglines, Google Reader, etc.)

Other social media/Web 2.0 tools not on the list

If so, which ones to you use and where can you be found online? (Here's your chance to plug your URL.) If you'd rather not answer this publically, you can send me an email at contactstaff (at) morrisoncountyhistory (dot) org.

Feel free to respond if you're a museum professional outside of Minnesota, too. You'll be helping us all to get hooked into the national museum community.

Coping with Collections

By: grabitsdm | January 26, 2009
A popular concern with colleagues around the state has to do with handling large collections. Sometimes that collection is new as discussed in Digital Windfall, and sometimes the collection has been sadly neglected for far too long. In either case if a historical organization is to preserve the collection, that collection needs to be made accessible to the public. For those less experienced in processing large collections, sometimes both the unknown and the magnitude can be daunting. What words would you use to coach someone through a large cataloging project? What tried and true procedures to guide you do you use?

Scheduling Software

By: grabitsdm | Information Technology | January 26, 2009

I would like to find out what other organizations use for registration and scheduling software for large school events.



Cheryl Finnegan

Learning from results

By: grabitsdm | January 7, 2009
Collecting and applying user statistics can help your organization grow its program or make hard choices in lean times. What statistics do you track? How has what you learned shaped your program?

Legacy Funding for History

By: grabitsdm | December 2, 2008
Members of the history community in Minnesota will gather on December 10, 11 and 15 to discuss the recently approved constitutional amendment and what may happen next.

What is known:

The constitutional amendment to increase and dedicate sales tax funds for outdoor and cultural resources passed in the November election with 56% of the vote.

“Minnesota history” is contained within the constitutional language. History funding is contained within the “Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.”

According to the Department of Revenue’s latest estimate, the Arts and Cultural Heritage fund will contain approximately $54 million per year.

Funds will ultimately be appropriated by the legislature.

Language within this new section of the constitution states that funding from this fund shall supplement existing sources of funding, but not be a substitute.

What is not known:

It is not clear how much money will be allocated to the various areas within the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, or by what mechanism funds will be allocated (i.e. citizens’ council, direct appropriation, etc.)

What can you do:

  • Propose how the funding could be used. Specifically, what needs are there?

  • Attend one of three meetings (same content, three locations): RSVP to David Kelliher

    • 7 p.m. December 10, 2008 at the Nicollet County Historical Society in St. Peter 7 p.m. 

    • December 11, 2008 at the Stearns History Museum in St. Cloud 3 p.m. December 15, 2008 at 

    • Historic Fort Snelling Visitor Center near the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport

  • Attend “History Matters Day at the Capitol” on February 16, 2009.

If you would prefer to deliver your thoughts without posting them to this blog, please email David Kelliher at the Minnesota Historical Society who volunteered to compile comments for the Council for Minnesota Archaeology, Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums, Minnesota Historical Society, and Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.

Time Saving Tips

By: warnerm | November 12, 2008
Other than money, the one thing that historical organizations tend to lack is time. Instead of focusing on that lack, I thought it might be a good idea to share ways in which we've learned how to make efficient use of our time, thus giving us more time for other tasks. How do you save time during your work in local history?

To start your wheels turning, here are a couple of things we do at the Morrison County Historical Society:

  • Make a list of things to do for the day or week. Absolutely critical for me, or I'd never stay focused.

  • When going through the mail, sort items out by order of importance. Junk mail goes in the recycling bin immediately. Bills go in the "to be paid" basket. Research requests go to whoever is in charge of answering them. Etc. Etc. Once sorted, deal with the easy stuff first. The point is to get through the mail in such a way that you are not having to handle unnecessary items more than once. Ditto on this for email.

Okay, your turn to share your time-saving tips. I've got a bunch more to prod you with if you get stuck.

Allowing Public Annotation

By: grabitsdm | November 12, 2008
Recently the Grants Office fielded a call from a county historical society considering a grant for an exhibit that would include a SMART Board. That recalled to mind the wonderful and nationally award-winning exhibit "Eating Out in Clay County" and the Clay County Historical Society. For that exhibit staff included blank notebooks wherein a visitor could respond to the exhibit as prompted by a question. The SMART Board would allow for the same kind of interaction electronically.

On the web, the Minnesota Historical Society recently began using Write on the Record, or WOTR (pronounced "water"), to enable visitors to annotate digital content, much like a reader of this blog can respond to the blog. For example, a researcher can annotate a database record using WOTR to let other researchers know of potential errors in the original, without altering the original record.

It's encouraging to see how repositories of public trusts now more openly trust the public to add to the overall record. Your thoughts? What are ways that the public can add content by interacting with a local historical organization's product?

Plan for Tomorrow

By: grabitsdm | October 28, 2008
Is there a county historical society that recently completed a business plan or strategic planning using a consultant? Are there any consultants out there for helping county historical society weathering the current economic downturn? We are looking for someone to facilitate a Board Retreat focusing on meeting tomorrow' s needs (which need a bit of defining) with adequate funding (sources/plan to be developed). In an effort to keep this blog free of advertising, please contact me off list with names or other specifics. Otherwise, do respond online with your experiences.

Sherry Stirling, Executive Director
Chisago County Historical Society

Spooky History

By: grabitsdm | October 28, 2008
Related to the History Museums as a Gathering Place discussion, there are always lots of events at historic sites toward the end of October to mark Halloween. Some are labeled as spooky or scary; some as for the family; and some are clearly educational, such as the many cemetery walks that local historical organizations present. History seems to lend itself well to Halloween. What issues should historical organizations consider, in addition to standard considerations, when presenting a program aimed at capturing Halloween attendance? If you have presented a Halloween program, what do patrons tell you is the reason that they came?