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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Thanking Volunteers

By: admin | April 3, 2007
April 15-22, 2007 is National Volunteer Appreciation Week. What specific tasks are most critical to your historical society that volunteers accomplish? Feel free to share stories about volunteer contributions. And, how are you planning on thanking your volunteers during this special week? Or, during the year?

Security systems for small museums

By: admin | March 26, 2007
I am interested in finding out what type of security systems small museums have found work best for them. We need to improve security for two small buildings. Do you have a system that you have been happy with? What problems/challenges have you run into with your system? What are your monitoring fees? Are false alarms a problem? Do you connect into your local fire department? Is there anything you would do differently if you had the chance to?

Any feedback is most appreciated!

Lisa Plank
Richfield Historical Society

History Hall of Fame

By: admin | March 19, 2007
Hello everyone!

Our group is looking to start a History Hall of Fame for our county, and I am curious if anyone else has done such a project as well as what was good and/or bad about it. We would like to have nominations be made each year, with the presentation of inductees at our annual Chautauqua event in July. The questions that come to mind are: Do we limit the number of inductees per year? Do we let anyone nominate someone or just members? We would like to have some sort of plaque that would have the inductees picture and why they are inducted, would it be too tacky to get corporate sponsorship for these plaques? Im sure I will think of more, but I just cant right now.

There's a PDF example at the Anderson County Museum in South Carolina, if anyone would like to see an example.


Mr. Kelly Herold

Buffalo County Historical Society, Alma, WI

Putting publications online

By: admin | March 5, 2007
Paul Nelson notes that the Ramsey County Historical Society's editorial board has discussed the pluses and minuses of putting the magazine, Ramsey County History, online. In the case of the RCHS journal, there are 43 years of back issues. Should all back issues be put online? Should more current issues not be included so that sales do not suffer? What is the best and most affordable technology? PDF files? What search tools should be used?

Working with College Students

By: admin | February 26, 2007
Intercollegiate Studies Institute's "The Coming Crisis in Citizenship" notes that college students do not know their American history very well. Studies like this come along quite often, so this suggestion was not very new. One of the recommendations is to make institutions of higher education more accountable to their "fundamental responsibility" to educate its students in American history. How are Minnesota's historical organizations working with college students, or with colleges and universities?

Read the report, and also feel free to comment on the report's findings and recommendations.

Putting Collections Online

By: admin | February 15, 2007
In the MHS blog, Jeff Brand said the following: "In the age of information that we live in today, doesn't it make more sense to create photograph, art and artifact collections online? Although I realize that a fair amount of income is earned by restricting these collections to paying customers, I also think that it's unfair that more things aren't made available to researchers and the general public as well."

My question is . . . What's the rush to get our collections online? I fully understand that putting collections online will increase people's access to them, but the push we are feeling from lovers of technology is overwhelming. Technology is moving so fast that forcing museums to muddle through this is not good for decision-making or the use of resources. Jeff indicates that he understands the challenges this causes for museums. Our challenges include not having enough staff, or enough IT expertise, or enough funding to accomplish this goal in the way people are demanding of us. Magnify this by the fact that within 3 years, whatever we do online will be obsolete and have to be upgraded. How do we go about the digitization of our collections in a smart way? Is there some way to provide museum staff with workshops on digitization? Better yet, are there some modular, open-source, preferably free tools we can gather together that will enable us to easily create photo galleries, online stores or the like on our websites? What sorts of things should we be digitizing? Shouldn't the care of our physical resources come first?

Mary Warner
Morrison County Historical Society

Dealing with demanding customers

By: admin | February 5, 2007
On a couple of recent visits, staff and volunteers at local organizations have commented that they were having trouble dealing with certain demanding customers. In one case the situation involved one institution wanting to borrow a lot of artifacts. In the other, it was a researcher who wanted a great amount of material from the research library. The obvious solution is better policies and procedures. What are some essential elements to good policies and prcedures governing public access to holdings?

Charlie Nelson

By: admin | January 22, 2007
Charlie Nelson, retired MHS historical architect, died early Saturday morning, January 20, 2007. Charlie was hired as the first historical architect in the State Historic Preservation Office after that program was established in 1969.

In his long tenure he left a lasting impact on the state's built environment. He was a leader in the historic preservation community and was known and admired in communities large and small throughout the state. In the image below, Charlie (far right) advised volunteers at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria about care and preservation of log buildings. He retired from the Society in 2005.

Charlie was particularly proud of the work he did with county and local historical organizations, and he had many, many friends throughout Minnesota. He had a passion for local history and traveled across Minnesota in every season and in all weather conditions. Charlie urged us all to do our very best, but his advice was always practical and geared to reality.

See obituaries in Pioneer Press and Star Tribune.

Please let us know how Charlie helped your organization.

What makes a good history book?

By: admin | January 16, 2007
I have proposed to my board that we prepare a "History of Pope County" book for publication in 2016, our 150th year. I want to know what my colleagues think regarding portions of past county history books that were successful, most used, least important, should never be repeated, etc., as we launch into our book. Pope County does not have a good history book. Thanks,

Merlin Peterson,
Pope County Historical Society

Finding Qualified Applicants

By: admin | January 16, 2007
My curator position closes today, which has me thinking about the application process from the employer's point of view. All I did was post it with MALHM, MHS, MAM, and email the description to a few others. I thought I would get graduating seniors applying for the job because of its temporary nature and relatively low pay. I have been pretty amazed at what actually happened. I have 5 resumes in hand (and am expecting at least one more today). All have college degrees in hand, two have MAs (a third nearly finished). Three have curatorial experience, two extensive. I just want to say that Im probably going to think twice about ever paying for job ads again. Id much rather have 5-10 qualified applicants than an additional 15-25 who are not.

I literally spent about $500 advertising a couple of positions a year and a half ago. We just dont have that kind of money. I got applications, but those I found would have heard about it through free circles anyway. With the distribution of Minnesota Local History News as well as the existence of "member post" sites like MAM, MALHM, and MN Council of Nonprofits, it just seems like a waste of money. Furthermore, it seems like an overwhelming majority of our job seekers are choosing to search via electronic means rather than cruising traditional want ads. Id much rather use the $500 I would have spent on ads on something else. It also tells me the museum economy must be a terribly scary place especially for recent graduates or Minnesotans wishing to remain in-state.

If you have thoughts on this, I'd really like to hear about them. Thanks,

Ben Leonard
Nicollet County Historical Society