Done By Volunteers & Interns

Done By Volunteers and Interns Blog

Activities and accomplishments of Minnesota Historical Society volunteers and interns

About

The Minnesota Historical Society's volunteer and intern programs welcome people from all communities to engage in mission-related projects. Over 2,660 volunteers and interns contribute 53,400 hours hours annually. This diverse volunteer corps helps to achieve the MNHS mission — Using the Power of History to Transform Lives.

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Thank you, Volunteers!

By: Mai Huizel | April 22, 2022

National Volunteer week is April 17 - 23, 2022. We will have a daily blog and social media presence all week celebrating volunteers!

We really can’t do what we do everyday throughout the state without volunteers. MNHS staff messages to volunteers

  • We are so fortunate to be gifted your time, talents, and expertise!
  • Without the generous efforts of interns and volunteers our publishing program would be dramatically narrower in scope & poorer in quality. Tremendous thanks from the Press.
  • Thank you all for answering the call for special events and family days, especially knowing you might step into something you don't know much about.  It is an amazing skill to pick up a project and engage with an audience right away.  Thank you for your service.
  • Thank you for all you do. You help make this organization what it is.
  • We literally could not run our History Day events without the help of volunteer judges. Their dedication to engaging with students, providing written feedback, and donating their time is so important to fostering a love of history in youth. Thank you, volunteers, for all of your help!
Staff and volunteers at the Gale Library holding up signs that read, "thank you volunteers."

Staff coordinator, Nick, and volunteers at the library registration desk.

An interview with staff

We interviewed staff coordinators to learn about their roles working with volunteers. Hear is one of the interviews.

In what ways do you work with volunteers?
I have worked with volunteers in a number of capacities, during special events, directing research projects, and providing programming to the public.

Share your favorite volunteering memory
I just love watching the interactions between volunteers and the public, especially families, during special events. There's just something special about someone who participates because it's something they WANT to do and not simply because it's their job.

What appreciation message would you like to share with volunteers?
Thank you for all you do. You help make this organization what it is.

If you have one life advice to share, what would it be?
Learn what your volunteer is passionate about and find a way to work it into your project in a productive way. That way everyone wins and feels fulfilled by the work

Throwback Thursday and Volunteer Stories

By: Mai Huizel | April 21, 2022
Volunteer in a costume with his dogs in a winter scene.

Volunteer, Al with his volunteer dogs, at the Snake River Fur Post during Winter Frolic, ca. 2000s.

National Volunteer week is April 17 - 23, 2022. We will have a daily blog and social media presence all week celebrating volunteers!

Volunteers have been an important part of the Minnesota Historical Society for decades! Our work is greatly enhanced by the thousands of volunteers over the years.

Volunteer Interviews

When we asked volunteers to share a memory, many of them said that they had too many! Here is what we heard from two of our volunteers.

Jerry, Museum Assistant volunteer at the Minnesota History Center
Share your favorite volunteer memory.
Too many to narrow it down to one.  I especially enjoy interacting with people who are from anywhere in MN to anywhere in the world.  All lead to great two way conversations.  I learn a lot from guests from around the world and I enjoy learning.
 

If you have one life advice what would it be?
In my role as a museum assistant, I think you need to enjoy both history and people.  Being open to new ideas or questions is helpful as well.


Barb, volunteer at the Oliver Kelley Farm
How did you get started volunteering?
My father taught American History in high school. I inherited his love of history.  I began volunteering with the Oliver Kelley Farm in 2018.
 

Share your favorite volunteer memory.
I loved seeing the magic and enthusiasm on the faces of students (and adults) as they hear and see the animals and gardens on the farm. Many students have never been to a farm or seen the farm animals or gardens.
 

If you have one life advice what would it be?
Volunteering is a wonderful way to share your interests and/ or skills with others.

Jerry sitting at a gallery cart.

Jerry, a museum assistant volunteer at the Minnesota History Center, in the exhibit at a gallery cart. Museum assistants learn about the exhibitions and provide live interaction with guests. They answer questions and share information.

6 Reasons Volunteers Choose the Minnesota Historical Society

By: Mai Huizel | April 20, 2022

Volunteers painting a porch at Historic Fort Snelling, summer 2021.

National Volunteer week is April 17 - 23, 2022. We will have a daily blog and social media presence all week celebrating volunteers!

As volunteer staff, we try to come up with creative ways to entice volunteers to our organization. But do we really know why volunteers choose to volunteer? We asked and we are yet again humbled by all of your answers. Here are six reasons volunteers have chosen the Minnesota Historical Society.

1. Volunteers are passionate about history.
Over and over again the term “love history” popped up in the survey. 

  • Love of history and genealogy. My family has been in St. Paul since the late 1880s and involved with industry within the city.
  • I like to share my love of history with the public.
  • I love history. I love to be part of bringing history to people who have come to the Oliver Kelley Farm.
  • I love history and music and the Fort Snelling Fife and Drum Corp seemed the perfect way to mix both interests.
  • Retired and I enjoy history.
  • Think sharing my experience in the flour making process and how the various machines worked.

2. They want to give back to the community.
Having a higher purpose and knowing that your time makes a difference for MNHS guests and staff is highly motivating.

  • I enjoy giving back to the community and learning about the area.
  • To be of service: to mentor, to enrich a visitor's experience; and to receive the energy of that human interaction in return.
  • I enjoy using my skills to help the MNHS. I am especially connected and involved with Fort Snelling as a volunteer for the past few years.
  • To give back. To help out!
  • I am looking for ways to give back during my retirement.
  • To return the help I had received in finding new information on genealogy but ensuring that others would be able to find something new too.
  • To provide transportation for those who have impaired mobility with the Oliver Kelley Farm golf cart.

3. Share their knowledge of history with people.
Relating to the “love history” reason, educating about history is very satisfying for Historical Society volunteers.

  • Volunteering at the History Center gives me an opportunity to share my knowledge with visitors, learn new things, and be active in the community. This is my 27th year at the History Center so you know I love being involved
  • I love to share the history of Historic Fort Snelling with the visitors.

4. Be involved in the community.
Some volunteers have the time and want to be in a space they can fill their time with. We are so thrilled volunteers choose to be here!

  • Gives me an opportunity to stay involved with a larger community of like minded people.
  • I enjoy it!  And as an empty nester, I have time available to help out.
  • Need to keep busy.
  • I had the time and it is good to be useful.
  • I'm an old retired guy who needs something interesting to do.
  • It provides me an opportunity to get out while also providing a service.
A volunteer moving people in a golf cart at Historic Fort Snelling.

Volunteers drive people movers at Historic Fort Snelling and other sites throughout the state.

5. Meet people.
MNHS volunteers really like people. They enjoy meeting guests and socializing with like minded peers.

  • MNHS is the best organization I've found for treating volunteers respectfully. Also, the programs and events are so well constructed and executed. Really fun and informative.
  • I am a veteran and a military history buff.  I enjoyed meeting guests and welcoming them to Ft. Snelling.
  • I have enjoyed so many events and have met so many wonderful staff and other volunteers.  I have enjoyed learning about the history of things.  I am a people person and love to talk with people.
  • To contribute time to an organization & to socialize with people sharing a similar interest in history.

6. Volunteering at the Historical Society is fun!
The Minnesota Historical Society has so many unique opportunities such as moving people with a golf cart, an expansive array of internships, helping out at special events and more. As one volunteer simply states, “It is fun.”

  • I enjoy driving golf carts transporting guests at Historic Fort Snelling and previously doing so at Oliver Kelley Farm.
  • I enjoy learning about history and helping others to do so also.
  • I believe I get more than the visitors do!
  • It is fun.
  • I was a teacher and enjoy education.

Thank you volunteers!

National Volunteer Week + Book Giveaway from MNHS Press

By: Mai Huizel | April 19, 2022
Points of Light image for National Volunteer Week April 17 - 23, 2022. Image of hands and hearts.

We are kicking off National Volunteer Week with a giveaway. We have seven amazing books from MNHS Press. All you need to do is be an active volunteer and add your name to the drawing through our Google form. Volunteers will receive an email to submit their names for the drawing. Winners will be announced on Friday, April 29.

This week we celebrate by sharing voices on their philosophy of volunteerism and hear from staff coordinators about Minnesota Historical Society Volunteers. Yesterday we released a special note from our Director & CEO, Kent Whitworth to our volunteers and today we have a special newsletter to share. It details how our volunteers make a difference for the organization.

National Volunteer Week Newsletter

Check out the National Volunteer Week Newsletter!

National Volunteer Week Kick-Off

By: Mai Huizel | April 18, 2022

National Volunteer week is April 17 - 23, 2022. We will have a giveaway of seven MNHS Press books, a daily blog, and social media presence all week celebrating volunteers!

Recognizing Volunteers

A message from Kent Whitworth, MNHS Director & CEO

The past two years have impacted our volunteers and the ways in which they engage with the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS). Despite everything that has been happening, we have since brought some of our volunteers back and continue to do so. 

Last year, we had a cadre of volunteers driving golf carts at Fort Snelling and Kelley Farm. We welcomed back our library greeters and you engaged visitors in our exhibits. You also judged for History Day and even worked on several special projects. 

We are gearing up for the summer season and volunteers will return to Fort Snelling helping with events, gardening and greeting, and of course, driving the golf carts. We have new volunteer activities at the Forest History Center - volunteers will participate in the USA National Phenology Network by making observations on plants and animals and their changes throughout the seasons. Observations will be recorded in Nature's Notebook on a Forest History Center specific site. At the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum, we are seeking volunteers to walk paths to alert staff of debris to ensure safe hiking for visitors. We also plan to have an invasive species clean up at Jeffers Petroglyphs. These are just a few of our plans moving forward. 

During this important week, we pause to celebrate you, our MNHS volunteers. We extend a huge thank you to those volunteers who have come back to volunteer and those who have been patient with us. Your passion for history and your enthusiastic commitment to MNHS bring out the very best in all of us - we are grateful!

Kent Whitworth, Director & CEO

Text inside of the shape of Minnesota listing MNHS sites and volunteer positions.

Word cloud of MNHS sites and volunteer positions throughout the state.

Special Events Volunteers

By: Rebekah Bjork | April 25, 2020

Minnesota Historical Society’s Special Events team consists of volunteers who are dedicated to making MNHS events successful. 88 volunteers assisted at more than 330 events at MNHS sites including Fort Snelling, the History Center, Mill City Museum, the Alexander Ramsey House, and also several non-MNHS site locations.

Volunteers support events and activities such as History HiJinx programs, Ramsey After Dark, State Fair Brochures, walking and brewery tours, clerical tasks, History Forums, History Lounges, Independence Day at Fort Snelling, Journey to the Falls, film screenings, and much more.

Event supervisor Danielle Dart said, “I rely on their intelligence and their guest service skills to run events. There is simply no way I could host larger programs or events without knowing that they've got my back and that our guests are being well cared for by them.”

MNHS Internship Programs

By: Rebekah Bjork | April 24, 2020

Multiple programs host interns from across the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS). The Fellows, Heritage Studies, College, and High School Intern Programs work in conjunction with one another through the Department of Inclusion & Community engagement (DICE) and Volunteers & Interns. Our goal is to develop future leaders and critical thinkers for cultural organizations by exposing students of all majors to museum and library environments. 

Last year 136 interns contributed 17,000 hours. Students from any discipline interested in gaining professional experience in a public museum environment have a unique opportunity to work directly with museum professionals. They participate in structured opportunities to learn more about the work of MNHS through the seminar activities. Students will be able to engage with employees from across the institution and develop a network of museum professionals.

Interns worked on these projects in FY2019:

  • Three archaeology interns completed an inventory of artifacts from the Lower Sioux Agency and cataloged a Woodland Period artifact collection from Bemidji State University.
  • A DICE intern created a “call to action” lesson plan and recruitment for the Nia and Creating Revolutionary Education through Cultura y Empode de Jovenes (culture and empowerment of youth) (CRECER) youth intern programs.
  • A social media intern worked with staff to create a weekly live video feature on MNHS’s Facebook page to share primary sources with teachers. His contribution helped double engagement on the MNHS page and greatly improved our organic impressions on Twitter.
  • A web design intern participated in the development of an API (Application Programming Interface) for multiple databases of historic record. The intern also coached staff on programming techniques, coordinated deployment, and created an interactive attendance data dashboard for historic sites.
  • Two design interns learned about marketing, illustration, graphic design, web design, and the print process. These skills helped them create multiple portfolio-worthy design and illustration projects.
  • Heritage studies and public history interns created the exhibit Owning Up: Racism and Housing in Minneapolis, which explores the history of racial housing discrimination in Minneapolis through the stories of three black families. The exhibit demonstrates the lasting effects of structural discrimination.

Long-time MNHS Volunteers

By: Rebekah Bjork | April 23, 2020

Minnesota Historical Society has numerous volunteers who have been volunteering for many years. There are 34 volunteers who have volunteered with MNHS for more than 20 years, and have dedicated a combination of more than 59,000 hours

We are very fortunate to have such outstanding and dedicated volunteers who work hard to make MNHS successful!

 

Recognizing FY2019 Volunteer Projects

By: Rebekah Bjork | April 22, 2020

Last year, 2,050 volunteers contributed 39,332 hours to the Minnesota Historical Society. But, what kind of projects did they work on?

  • 3M employees from the company’s Native American Network and the Women’s Organization of MNHS hand-lettered 70 stars for the First Avenue exhibit. The stars were hand-cut by a long-time MNHS volunteer. The 3M group also put together 2,000 bandolier bags for a school program project.
  • MNopedia volunteers and interns completed phase one of the Minnesota Place Names project by proofing geocoding for 87% of the project’s 6,114 entries, and published 15 articles.
  • A collections volunteer made over 3,000 corrections to our death certificate index and has also reviewed 200 death index comments and public emails.
  • 20 state archives volunteers completed the rehousing of 142 boxes of Ramsey County District Court criminal case files dated 1858–1930. The volunteers organized 13,000 file envelopes from the boxes. This 15-month project resulted in boxes that are better preserved and easier for library researchers to use.
  • 24 volunteers distributed nearly 40,000 State Fair walking tour brochures to fairgoers.
  • A group of volunteers—79% from Somali and East African communities—contributed 465 hours by advising and assisting with community events and MNHS programs associated with the Somalis + Minnesota exhibit.
  • Somalis + Minnesota intercept survey volunteers, or The Data Squad, reached the goal of 383 responses.

MNHS Historic Sites Volunteers

By: Rebekah Bjork | April 21, 2020

Many MNHS historic sites utilize volunteers and interns skills and talents for various projects and events. Volunteers can be found at the Alexander Ramsey House, Forest History Center, Forestville, Fort Snelling, James J. Hill House, the History Center, Jeffers, Lindbergh, Mill City Museum, Mille Lacs, North West Company Fur Post, the Oliver Kelley Farm, and Split Rock Lighthouse!

A new volunteer position was created for field trip facilitators at Historic Fort Snelling. This group of 31 volunteers contributed nearly 800 hours, served more than 300 schools, and interacted with 18,409 students during the 2018–2019 school year.

At the Oliver Kelley Farm, a fabulous group of volunteers helped in the kitchen, worked as school program greeters and visitor services specialists. They also helped guests around the site as golf cart drivers and helped with office projects.

Volunteers assisted with special events at North West Fur Post greeting guests and helping with children's activities.

Volunteers helped with the Ramsey Holiday program by playing the piano and greeting guests.

Volunteers at Mill City Museum helped organize school tour groups, assisted staff in the baking lab, engaged students in the gallery and greeted guests at special events.

A volunteer at Mille Lacs used his lunch hour to lead tour groups during the summer months.

Historic Fort Snelling Fifes and Drums gave 11 musical performances during the Independence Day Celebration at Historic Fort Snelling.

 

Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers and interns who contribute their time and talents to MNHS historic sites!

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