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.

All MNHS Blogs

Subscribe by e-mail:

 Subscribe in a reader

Working with Scout Groups

By: admin | November 26, 2007
Do you have a successful program for working with groups of Scouts either Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts? Scouts are always looking for activities, whether it is a field trip, service project or badge earning activity. Museums are always looking for new audiences. How do we get these two together?

Share some successful and not-so-successful ideas.

Under a microscope

By: admin | November 20, 2007
Steven T. Miller, commissioner for tax exempt and government entities at the Internal Revenue Service spoke about why changes are proposed in reporting of nonprofit activity. Basically he said that nonprofits are under a microscope because citizens generally want to make sure a public service happens in lieu of foregone taxes. In a speech a few days later Miller provided some thoughts on trends the IRS sees in the nonprofit sector. He mentions several, but one notes being Ready for the Boom and the other is the troubling blurring of the line between for-profit and nonprofit activity. While nonprofits can benefit from business discipline, it seems that forgetting the mission blurs the line the fastest and the cause of being under the microscope. What's your take on the commissioner's comments?

Input sought for Murphy's Landing

By: admin | November 16, 2007
Shortly after acquiring Historic Murphy's Landing in 2002, Three Rivers Park District began a planning process for the park that resulted in a recommendation that the park name be changed to 'The Landing'. In March 2007, the Park District Board did approve the name change. As we began the process to implement this name change, our staff took a hard look at the name and its value in depicting the mission of the Park, it's promotability, and public recognition potential. Our discussions have led us to reconsider the name and prepare a new name recommendation for the Park.

While the name 'Historic Murphy's Landing' will be retained in the Park to represent the historic inn ruins and river landing areas, the entire Park will have a new name.

As some in the local history community were involved in our initial planning process back in 2003 and 2004, which resulted in the development of a Concept Master Plan for the Park along with the recommended name change, and some have been involved with Murphy's Landing in other ways, I wanted to ask for your feedback.

The names under consideration are:
  • Minnesota River History Park

  • Minnesota River Historic Park

  • Minnesota River Historical Park

  • Minnesota River Heritage Park

Two mission statements are relevant to this effort. They are the Park District's overriding mission statement and the mission statement for the Park itself.

  • "The mission of Three Rivers Park District is to promote environmental stewardship through recreation and education in a natural resources-based park system."

  • "Historic Murphy's Landing (The Landing) interprets how people, for thousands of years, have connected to the Minnesota River and its surrounding natural and cultural resources."

The name of the facility should effectively communicate the broad mission and range in time periods, resources, and experiences on the site. The Park District Naming Policy states: "Parks or areas and facilities within parks will be named for a geographic, natural, or historic feature of that park, local folk usage, historic events, to commemorate people who have made outstanding contributions to the Park District, or persons of local historic or outstanding civic service."

The name should:
  • be inclusive of all aspects and time periods of the site.

  • not emphasize the Euro-American aspects of the site.

  • be easily related to the Minnesota River, a constant theme for the site.

  • reflect the mission statement.

  • be easily remembered and evocative of the site.

  • be attractive to the public imagination.

  • be unique to the market place.

Responses would be appreciated via email by November 30, 2007. If you have any questions or need further clarification, please email me or call me at 763-694-7640.

Thank you.

Denis R. Hahn,
Outdoor Education Manager - Special Facilities

Ready for the Boom?

By: admin | November 5, 2007
Guidestar recently carried an article Is Your Organization Ready for "The Boom"? by Christine Litch that notes the impending retirement of the Baby Boom generation and its potential impact for nonprofit organizations. AASLH's "History News" Summer 2007 issue has an article "A Golden Age for Historic Properties" by John Durel and Anita Nowery Durel that highlights intriguing possibilities to involve Boomers in years to come. No question about it: Boomers will shape local historical organizations for many years to come. Both Litch and the Durels see the influx of Boomer volunteers and users as a structural issue. Litch foresees difficulties in accommodating so many potential volunteers, while the Durels call for reorganizing how programs work. What are some of the issues you are noticing as Boomers more frequently use or volunteer for your organization? What are some of the ways that you are adapting to new demands? How has your organization adapted to new realities in the past?
Any lessons there?

Helping Public History for MN 150

By: admin | October 24, 2007
As we all go into the Sesquicentennial, I'm interested to know what you're thinking about doing, what concerns you have, what help we can be to each other. It would be really useful, I think, if we could invent this wheel together (or at least the part of the wheel that suits us). My particular interest is linking academic and public historians, so I'm also interested to know what kind of help the academics might be able to offer. (For another purpose, a group of various kinds of Minnesota historians have met a couple of times and have begun to put together a list of names, e-mail addresses, and specialties in the field as well as list of important secondary sources and primary documents in print and on line -- would you be interested in these lists, for example?) The academic historians, for our part, are looking for outlets for our work, too.

So, my special interest is to find ways that we can help each other. What would be the best forms for that help?

Anyone interested in talking about this?


Annette Atkins
Professor of History
Saint John's University/College of Saint Benedict

Refusing a bequest

By: admin | October 9, 2007
Should a historical society ever refuse an estate bequest? If someone has willed possessions - photographs, books, cultural materials - to a Society, is it advisable to decline part or all of the materials, or is there the need to keep the peace by accepting the whole lot? How might the Society approach a conversation with the heirs about the decision-making process?

Deborah Morse-Kahn

Collecting Trophies

By: admin | September 25, 2007
It seems like a lot of organizations struggle with accepting athletic trophies into permanent collections. On the one hand, trophies seem to the general public like a very historic item - after all a trophy has a date, and sometimes other information placing the trophy in history. A trophy is a memorial to an accomplishment, and to not keep that might suggest that the accomplishment was transitory or unimportant. On the other hand, space and resources are limited at local historical organizations. Trophies take up both time to catalog and care for and space to store, and yet might be seen to have limited use in telling the story of any given area. From a cost-benefit point of view, perhaps trophies should be taken into collections only with great fore thought. So, two questions:
  • How do you evaluate trophies when considering including them in your permanent collection?

  • What are the stories that trophies help tell?

User or Visitor

By: admin | September 11, 2007
While at the American Association for State and Local History Conference in Atlanta last week, one session made the point that while libraries have users, historical organizations count visitors. Visitation is a passive activity, while using is an activity: a participation where the public has a stake in the institution. Are people as passionate about local history as libraries? Should historical organizations start thinking of its public as users? Is there historical value in continuing to call our public visitors? Please elaborate.

Necessary Museums?

By: admin | August 27, 2007
While on the road last week, one visit prompted the question of whether it was necessary for a historical organization to operate a museum to be a "good historical organization." Most of Minnesota's historical organizations do operate a museum as those organizations are collecting institutions that want to share history through artifacts. In a sense, sometimes a museum with exhibits is the mark of being a historical organization. There's no question that the public can connect with history through artifacts in educational exhibits, which must be housed somewhere. See the discussion on Pieces of History, for example. However, there's also no question that museums can be quite costly to operate. How should a new organization weigh the benefits and costs of collecting, exhibiting, and operating a museum? Can a historical organization be solid without a collection or museum in which to exhibit?

Pieces of History

By: admin | August 6, 2007
Many historical organizations have architectural remnants in collections: cornerstones, stain glass windows, courthouse banisters, steeples, brackets, doors, decorative plaster and terra cotta to begin a possibly endless list of salvaged icons from buildings of a lost cultural landscape. All of these pieces of history are challenging to interpret as they are out of context in the sense that the building to which they had belonged is gone. Perhaps readers can respond to the following two questions:

  • Under what circumstances should an organization accept an architectural remnant?

  • If there is an architectural remnant in your collection now, how do you evaluate whether or not to retain it as part of the permanent collection? How might you use the object to tell the story of your community?