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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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

Reflections from a MNHS Volunteer

By: Rebekah Bjork | November 4, 2019

Kseniia is a volunteer at the Minnesota Historical Society in the Business Intelligence and Process Improvement department. Below is a transcript of an interview with her.

Why did you start volunteering at the Minnesota Historical Society?

I made a decision to join the Minnesota Historical Society in July, 2019. Becoming a part of the local community is one of the most exciting parts of my life! I like history, and by looking back to the past in our history, I think we can better understand the present moment and predict our future. History helps us to track our origins and compare past patterns with present and future patterns. Modern technology teaches us new ways to do things. Minnesota Historical Society gave me a great opportunity to join the Business Intelligence and Process Improvement department as a volunteer! I am very grateful for this opportunity! 

Why have you continued to volunteer at MNHS? 

I would like to make an impact! Volunteering gives me a chance to be a part of something bigger than myself and use my knowledge and experience to make a positive result for a whole team. It’s a great possibility in my life and an invaluable experience. Another reason to be a volunteer is to learn new things. By taking the time to learn a new software-program or get more experience in the SCRUM approach, I am opening myself up to new career opportunities.

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer position?

To be a volunteer with Business Intelligence and Process Improvement team is a good way to make business relationships by working together on projects. Volunteering gives me the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, and organization!

A Meaningful Summer at Home in Little Falls

By: Rebekah Bjork | September 12, 2019

Madeline was a summer intern at the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum in Little Falls. She spent half of her time conducting guided tours and the other half of her time conducting research that will be used to build a future public history program. 

Madeline grew up in Little Falls and visited the house many times over the course of her childhood and always wanted to work there. Interning at the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum has been a dream come true for her. Below is a transcript of an interview with her.

Can you share 1 or 2 projects you worked on during your internship that you are proud of?

I split my time as an intern between giving tours and conducting research. The first major project I did was writing my own tour script. I spent a lot of time at first following other interpreters on their tours and reading the book that the majority of the Lindbergh tour is based off of, Boyhood on the Upper Mississippi. It's a collection of letters written by Charles Lindbergh later in his life about his experience growing up in Little Falls. It was really cool to hear directly from Charles about the town I grew up in too. I took a lot of notes on that and also noted things I liked from other interpreters' tours and then fit all of that into the outline of MNHS' vision treatment for tours at the site. I had expected to sort of just be given a script and told to memorize it, so I was excited to find out how much originality and creativity are encouraged. I have loved becoming a storyteller this summer and feeling like the tours I give are a piece of myself as well as of the history I love. My ultimate goal when I take guests into the house is to get them to the point where they can almost see a young Charles standing in the room with them, and I think that at least with some of them I've managed it.

My research project this summer involved creating a source compendium of information on Charles Lindbergh's conservation and environmental efforts in the 1960s and 70s. Eventually this information will be formatted into a public presentation. I like to think I'm sort of laying the foundations. I've compiled a list of all the primary and secondary sources relevant to this topic and have also provided a summary of content for each one, in addition to also  gathering key points, supporting information, and citations. Eventually, all of the most important information on Charles' environmentalism will be contained in this one document I'm working on, so it will be easy to find and access later. I've gone through sections of several books, articles, newspaper clippings, websites, MNHS event project documents from the 90s, and a 1964 edition of Reader's Digest that I found on Ebay. That was one of the most fun parts. 

What did you enjoy most about your internship experience?

My favorite part of my internship has been developing my skills in viewing and sharing history as a story rather than facts. I've learned so much about how to make history real and alive for people of all ages and backgrounds, both through writing and giving my tour and through the direction of my research. The experience has made a huge impact on me and changed the way I think for the better. I study Social Sciences Education in college. Whether I decide to teach in a traditional classroom later or use my degree in other ways, maybe more so in the field of public history, I think I have really learned how to help people form connections with the past and how to sort of turn myself into a facilitator who can help them do that rather than just an instructor. I really feel that I'll be able to do history justice now, wherever I end up in my career. That means a lot to me.

Contributing to Long Term Preservation at the Hill House

By: Rebekah Bjork | September 9, 2019

Cordelia worked at the Hill House as a summer Collections Assistant Intern. She created an inventory of architectural detail and building fragments.This work supports the overall inventory of program use materials. Cordelia identified over 222 unique items which are now cataloged with descriptions, quantities, and locations. Cordelia, learned artifact handling skills, and best practices for inventory through hands on experience. This project is an essential part of long term preservation of the site. Knowledge of the resources we have for research and replication of original architectural and building parts will allow MNHS to continue to learn more about the house itself, and maintain its authenticity now and for generations to come. 

A thank you from Cordelia’s supervisor: The work that Cordelia completed over the summer will have a long term impact on the preservation work at the site and will be an invaluable tool for many years into the future. We are also so grateful Cordelia not only was able to do incredibly detailed work but also had an excellent sense of humor and was willing to work her internship hours where the objects were located which meant many hours working in closets and moving around tour groups. The site is better positioned for the future because of Cordelia! Thank you, Cordelia!

Exploring Family Genealogy

By: Rebekah Bjork | September 6, 2019

Pam is a volunteer at the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota History Center working in the Hubbs Microfilm Room. To date, Pam has contributed 6 years of service and reached more than 1,000 volunteer service hours. 

As someone who used to work in family history, volunteering at MNHS allowed Pam to continue what she loves to do, research and helping others explore family genealogy. Recently, Pam helped a library patron find a newspaper article about her biological mother. This individual was separated from her parents at a young age and came to the Gale Family Library hoping to find more information about her family.

Every week when Pam comes in to volunteer, she is able to help patrons discover new information. Sharing the excitement of finding new information with patrons makes Pam happy. She also enjoys helping patrons think out of the box and directing them to new resources. Pam finds it rewarding to help individuals explore genealogy and discover new information, that is why she continues to volunteer with MNHS.

Thank you, Pam, for your dedication to MNHS as a volunteer!


Military and Citizen Service Day at Fort Snelling

By: Rebekah Bjork | September 6, 2019

On Saturday, August 3 four special events volunteers spent their facilitating activities at Fort Snelling’s Military and Citizen Service Day. The event was aimed to help visitors learn about the meaning of citizenship and service and how it has transformed over time. Service-focused tours were offered throughout the day, highlighting those who served at Fort Snelling and how the fort has changed from 1820 to 1946. 

Our wonderful volunteers managed the “make-it take it” activity table and showed visitors how to make soldier garrison hats. MNHS has a variety of special events throughout the year, and these events would not be a success without the help of dedicated volunteers.