Done By Volunteers & Interns

Done By Volunteers and Interns Blog

Activities and accomplishments of Minnesota Historical Society volunteers and interns


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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MNHS Volunteer Program

By: Rebekah Bjork | April 20, 2020

Volunteers are essential to the Minnesota Historical Society. MNHS has more than 2,050 volunteers who help support MNHS and its goals. Last year, our volunteers contributed a combined total of 39,332 hours in 32 programs and departments across the organization. 

But, who are our volunteers? Our volunteers are from a variety of ages and backgrounds. They are well-educated people; over 91% have obtained additional education after high school, with 40% having graduate or professional degrees. Below is just a small sample of their fields of study:​​

  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Architecture
  • Aviation Safety
  • Biology 
  • Business       
  • Chemistry                        
  • Cinema & Media Culture                 
  • Communications        
  • Computer Science  
  • Conservation & Restoration                                             
  • Design & Apparel Studies 
  • Digital Media Arts & Marketing 
  • Economics                     
  • Education
  • Engineering      
  • English
  • Finance                                                          
  • Fisheries & Animal Science 
  • Folklore                               
  • Food Science                    
  • Geography                             
  • German                                     
  • Global Studies & Chinese 
  • Graphic Arts                 
  • Guidance Counselor                     
  • Historical Administration    
  • History                                                     
  • Humanities                                       
  • Information Technology                 
  • Intercultural Studies 
  • Journalism                   
  • Latin American Studies                  
  • Law Enforcement             
  • Library Science             
  • Linguistics                       
  • Mathematics                       
  • Medicine                           
  • Music                                            
  • Nursing                                                         
  • Painting                                 
  • Philosophy                        
  • Photography                              
  • Physics                                                     
  • Political Science                                
  • Psychology                                            
  • Public Affairs                                                         
  • Religion                                  
  • Secretarial                                   
  • Social Sciences                                                      
  • Soil Science                                                                  ​                                      
  • Tool & Die Making       

Thank you, volunteers, for making the work you do at MNHS a huge success.


National Volunteer Recognition Week

By: Rebekah Bjork | April 19, 2020

Volunteers and interns are essential to the Minnesota Historical Society. MNHS has more than 2,200 volunteers and interns who help support MNHS and its goals. In FY2019, our volunteers and interns contributed a combined total of 56,300 hours in 32 programs and departments across the organization. 

Last year, 136 interns (high school, college, fellows, and Heritage Studies) contributed 17,000 hours! 83% said their internships increased their confidence in their skills, and 89% said their internships expanded their job skills. Interns work in various departments across the organization.

Many historic sites besides the History Center 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, Lower Sioux, Mill City Museum, Mille Lacs, North West Company Fur Post, the Oliver Kelley Farm, Sibley, and Split Rock Lighthouse!

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.

We have over 144 staff members who work with our volunteers and interns to provide them with support, encouragement, instruction, and guidance. 97% of our volunteers feel valued and their work is meaningful, and 96% of staff think volunteers expand the capacity of MNHS.

Thanks to all MNHS volunteers and interns who continuously add to the mission and vision of MNHS!

Developing a Volunteer Project

By: Rebekah Bjork | January 17, 2020

Volunteer Matt has been interested in history since he could remember. He even worked at a Collections Center at Southwest State University when he was in school. After he graduated, Matt started a 40-year career in real estate development. 

Matt’s volunteer project is to create real estate reports for the Facilities & Risk Management department. He looks at a combination of the physical layout of MNHS sites, ownership, boundaries, easements at the historic site property, underground items like fuel tanks, gas lines, electric lines, overhead stuff, anything that encroaches on the property, legal descriptions, and legal documents. In his 5 years of volunteering at MNHS, he has conducted 10 site reports!

Matt says he enjoys volunteering at MNHS because he enjoys going into the history of properties because it is useful and critical information. It is also another way for him to continue to learn, problem-solve, and stay in touch with the real estate development world.

MNHS staff Diane Adams-Graf said “Matt has given, and continues to contribute, invaluable research services to MNHS in his title research and reports. These are legal histories and recordings of various types of ownership and restrictions for any specific MNHS property. They provide critical information in identifying potentially dangerous problems associated with title and responsibilities with properties owned or under MNHS stewardship. Matt has created numerous title reports and has called attention to a number of problems or questions over the years. Matt has also given us great assistance in resolving identified issues. 

“The deep experience, highly technical and specialized skills, and devoted time Matt brings to the task make Matt a very special volunteer. MNHS is grateful for the significant findings he has documented and the research and recommendations he continues to donate. We are so thankful to have him part of our team!”

Public Relations Intern

By: Rebekah Bjork | January 16, 2020

Intern Abigail was the Public Relations Intern at MNHS in Fall 2019. She was an amazing help writing and editing a ton of news releases, articles, calendar event entries, and more. 

One standout project is the monthly MNHS series in Minnesota Good Age magazine, which is a 700-800 word article on some aspect of Minnesota history and involves some good research using MNHS resources, developing a compelling story with a historian and journalist eye, and working on editing multiple drafts with me. Abigail wrote stories for the January and February issues of Good Age, and her January story on environmentalist Sigurd Olson was published on the magazine's website. 


Submitted by MNHS staff Lauren Peck

Records Management Internship

By: Rebekah Bjork | January 16, 2020

Intern Francesca was the Records Management Intern in Fall 2019. She provided incredibly efficient assistance throughout her Records Management internship. Her project consists of inventorying all of the historic site files maintained by Facilities - Historic Properties, as well as archiving the pre-2010 project files. Her incredible work greatly benefits Facilities & Risk Management as it ensures our file inventories are up to date and comprehensive, as well as makes room for future incoming files. Her archiving the pre-2010 project files has also contributed to the department's goal for a concrete departmental records retention schedule, as we establish the retention parameters for our department files.


Submitted by MNHS staff Emily Conn


Project SEARCH Intern Gains Experience at MNHS

By: Rebekah Bjork | December 31, 2019

From day one, Natalie knew her internship at the Minnesota History Center was special. “History is one of my passions and was one of my Dad’s passions. I felt closer to my Dad when I was working there.”

Natalie came to MNHS through Project SEARCH, a program designed for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This program focuses on building independence and job skills by completing three, ten-week internships through a partnering business. The goal is to prepare interns for integrated, competitive employment in a wide variety of job fields. In addition to the internships, interns participate in a job-skills class and receive on-the-job assistance from their supervisors and Project SEARCH staff.

While attending her internship at MNHS in the fall, her supervisors, Sarah Barsness and Charlie Rodgers, said, “Natalie brings a great energy to her workspace each day, from her morning check-in until she says goodbye in the afternoon. She is enthusiastic, courteous, respectful, and an attentive listener.”

While at MNHS, Natalie rehoused St. Cloud State Reformatory Inmate Case Files preserved in the State Archives collection. While on site, she was responsible for taking case files out of their old, damaged folders and putting them into new, acid-free folders. While rehousing the files, Natalie skimmed through the paperwork to find interesting pictures, letters, or postcards. Completing this work ensures the case files will last much longer and be easier for researchers to use.

In Digital Collections Services, she took scanned images of WWI Military Service Questionnaires and got them ready for online access. This project involved some detailed technical work, data entry, and deciphering some tough handwriting, but Natalie was up for the challenge. Completing this work provided online access to these popular records. This benefits not only our researchers, but it also helps the original paper records last longer by reducing handling.  

Natalie completed her internship November 26th and plans to apply the skills she learned to her next internship. She speaks of her time at MNHS fondly and has given multiple tips to the new MNHS intern, Colin. Natalie would love to have a job involving history and even if it doesn’t, she knows history will always be a part of who she is, thanks in part to her time at MNHS.

When asked about her time at MNHS, Natalie said, “One of the things I really liked about the History Center was learning about my own state. In school, we learn about the history of America, but not about how the individuals felt about what was going on in the world. Hearing their stories was inspiring.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Project SEARCH, visit


Submitted by Katie Borne, Project SEARCH Instructor

Heritage Studies Graduate Program

By: Rebekah Bjork | December 20, 2019

The Heritage Studies and Public History (HSPH) graduate students explore the publicly engaged and community-accountable practices of historical scholarship, whether it is based in archival research, archaeology, material culture studies, architecture, preservation, and landscape studies. The HSPH Masters program offers specialized tracks in Archaeological Heritage, Public History, and Historic Preservation. With a commitment to social justice, the HSPH program is on a mission to change the fields of Heritage Studies and Public History by diversifying them. The Internship Program is designed to advance four core values: diversity, interdisciplinary inquiry, experiential learning, and community engagement. 

HSPH graduate students have been busy working in various internships within the Historical Society and within community organizations. The work they are doing for the internships range from museum access, community engagement, digital archives, tribal self-governance, and communications to name a few. Graduate students spend their time working with internship supervisors to cultivate projects that align with the institutions values and mission. MNHS Press worked closely with graduate student Eric to produce their exhibit on Minnesota History on view in the Gale Family Library. Eric co-curated the exhibit with staff Lori Williamson and Laura Weber. Graduate student Simiyha worked closely with staff in the MNHS Collections department to assist in the identification, cataloging and processing of acquisition offers in the 3D Objects collection pertaining to African American history.


Submitted by staff Amber Annis

Contributing to the MNHS Mission

By: Rebekah Bjork | December 13, 2019

Volunteer Phil has an abiding interest in local and regional history, and has visited many historic sites in Minnesota, including most of the properties administered by MNHS. Through his volunteer work at MNHS, he was able to apply his writing, editing, and photographic skills.

As part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) MNHS has participated in since 2007, we are required to submit a "title essay" to the Library of Congress, along with the digital newspaper files, for each newspaper title selected for digitization. For the 2017-2019 NDNP grant cycle we had 30 newspaper titles that required an essay! Phil wrote a 500 word essay on the American Jewish World newspaper, with a deadline only a few weeks away. He researched the title independently and quickly returned with a concise, interesting, and readable essay. It is not yet posted online, but should be available on both Library of Congress's Chronicling America site and MNHS's Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub landing site within the next few months.

Phil said “I enjoy contributing to the MNHS mission and the broader societal goals of preserving historic sites and educating the public about past lives and events.”


Information provided by staff supervisor Jillian Odland and volunteer Phil.

Learning the Backstory

By: Rebekah Bjork | December 2, 2019

For the past several months, volunteer Teri has been sharing her expertise in marketing and data analysis. She drafted a project to identify a plan for the digitization and promotion of archival collections that will facilitate increased access by a broader set of users. Data from Google Analytics and stakeholder interviews have generated some excellent information about who uses library & archives collections and how they are going about their research journey. "Teri has been absolutely amazing to work with, and I'm thrilled that her passion for history led her to share her skills with MNHS," said staff Wendy Guerra.

Below is a transcript of an interview with Teri about her work.

What are some reasons you started volunteering at the Minnesota Historical Society?

  • My love of history, especially cultural history.  
  • Understanding people's backstory is important to me. Everyone has a journey to who they are today. At work or socially I love to know an individual's journey to where they are today, what they have experienced and learned and do! To me it is as delicious as cake to not only hear others tell their stories but to also see their faces and to be part of their journey. I've learned so much by just asking.  
  • And because history is so valuable and because of these two things listed above I felt it was important for me to contribute to preserving history and making it accessible to others. 

Why have you continued to volunteer at MNHS? 

  • The support is awesome! The volunteer staff and my project supervisor Wendy are always available to answer questions and provide guidance.
  • Feeling appreciated! From their demonstrated encouragement and support I know the entire staff values volunteers.
  • The flexibility to fit my schedule. As a full-time professional and mom of two young kids, having the ability to coordinate a schedule that works is incredibly helpful. 

What have you enjoyed most about your volunteer position?

  • Learning about how history is preserved and the future of making history accessible. 
  • Meeting new people through my work on this project I have met several great people who are as excited about history as I am. As they talk, share their insights and stories only makes me more excited to know them and to volunteer. 
  • The opportunity to leverage my marketing skills in a whole new way! As a marketer by day in business, having the opportunity to leverage these skills for MNHS encourages me to think differently, which is refreshing! 


Submitted by staff Wendy Guerra and volunteer Teri 

Volunteer Shares Multitude of Skills

By: Rebekah Bjork | December 2, 2019

Daryl has been a volunteer at the Jeffers Petroglyphs since 2002. He has assisted with a variety of programs and events over the years, but especially the Atlatl Program in which he showed people how to make and throw darts using atlatls. He has helped with Flintknapping​ events by demonstrating his skills in creating projectile points. He developed and led many homeschool events. He created items to sell in the gift shop such as spears, arrows, atlatls and games. He also created a website, educational materials, and a Buffalo Hunter Certificate that we hand out to visitors. 

Jeffers Petroglyphs has benefited because of the time he has spent preparing materials and sharing his knowledge and skills over the years.

Submitted by staff Pam Jensen