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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Student Scholarship 2017 Recipients

By: Rebekah Bjork | June 24, 2017

This is the fifteenth year of the Society's Student Volunteer Scholarship Program. The program recognizes the volunteer contributions that high school students make to the Society by awarding graduating seniors a $1,000 scholarship.

Students met criteria that included: total years and hours of volunteer service, an essay, and letters of recommendation from a teacher and their Society staff supervisor. A selection committee made up of MNHS staff, volunteers, interns, and community members interviewed students and awarded Jagath Naithani and Zac Wright each a $1,000 Society scholarship. Jagath and Zac are both graduating high school seniors who have made tremendous contributions to the Society as volunteers, sharing their time, energy and talents. We are so proud of their accomplishments!

Jagath Naithani
Jagath graduated from Eastview High School in June 2017. He became a Society volunteer in December 2014, and has contributed more than 63 hours of volunteer service. Jagath has served as a special events and coat check volunteer. He says the biggest thing he has learned while volunteering with the Society is good customer service and communication skills. He has learned to be kind and patient with all age groups, which is something that will help him with his future career goals. Jagath plans to attend the University of St. Thomas in the fall and will be studying Business and Marketing.

Zac Wright
Zac graduated from Southwest High School in June 2017. He became a Society volunteer in April 2014, and has contributed more than 186 hours of volunteer service. Zac has served as a member of the teen Fife and Drum Corps at Historic Fort Snelling. While volunteering at the Society, he has learned about drumming techniques and certain styles of historical music. Volunteering at MNHS has helped him complete his goal of being involved in various activities during high school. Zac plans to attend the University of Minnesota-Morris in the fall and may study Earth Science and Music.

Student Scholarship 2017

Dreams of Illustration

By: Rebekah Bjork | June 16, 2017

In 2012, Samantha (Sammy) started volunteering at the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic site as a high school student. Her mother was a new interpreter and she was also interested in the place. We asked her to manage the painting paper plates station for our Children's Day event as she loves art and is good with kids. David Geister was also there to help kids improve their skills. Sammy and David had a fair amount of downtime together and they had good conversations. Sammy asked him questions about becoming an illustrator as a career path.

Fast forward to today - Sammy has graduated from Ithaca University with a degree in illustration. For her culminating project, she created a children's book based on letters Lindbergh and his father wrote to each other (cataloging our onsite collection was another of Sammy's volunteer projects). She submitted this project to Random House Student Illustration Day.

To see the project:

Submitted by Melissa Peterson 06/16/2017

Dreams of Illustration image

Finding Gold

By: Rebekah Bjork | June 12, 2017

Volunteer Levi has been volunteering with MNHS for 3 months, and found the answer to his project on his first day! He was searching our local Little Falls newspapers from the WW1 time frame for any information related to Little Falls during the war. Lindbergh’s new, living history program this summer focuses on life during the war. Levi collected the info on our spreadsheet so we have access to it when we need it.

The one piece of "gold" he was looking for was information about the Boy's Working Reserve. Lindbergh had left school to provide food for the country, but we did not have definitive evidence that he was in the program. Levi found an article in the newspaper stating that the program was offered in Little Falls and it had a list of names on it that included Lindbergh!

Thanks, Levi!

Submitted by Jennifer Burr 06/12/2017

Oliver Kelley Farm Grand Opening

By: Rebekah Bjork | June 1, 2017

49 volunteers contributed more than 220 hours assisting with the early-morning Donor Breakfast, button-making, farm animal safety, seed planting, vinaigrette making, and windmill activities.

Our volunteers helped serve more than 1,900 general admission visitors plus approximately 250 members who attended the Donor Breakfast and Grand Opening events. A special thanks to our wonderful volunteers who helped make this event a success!

Complicated Fun

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 22, 2017

Volunteers Anna, Dana, and Mary did some work on Cyn Collin’s book “Cyn Collin's _ Complicated Fun_”. Combined, they transcribed over half a MILLION words worth of interviews on behalf of Cyn Collins. Supervisor Dan Leary stated “I can say for certain that this title would not exist but for the heroic efforts of Anna, Dana, and Mary.” Cyn Collin's _ Complicated Fun_ is an oral history of the Twin Cities indy rock scene of the late 1970's-early 1980's and was constructed by editing together a truly huge number of interviews with the various movers and shakers on that scene. Dan said “Anna alone transcribed 300,000 words on her own; an astounding effort for hundreds of volunteer hours. How much is 300,000 words ya ask? Well, the finished 450-page book's manuscript ended up being a mere 120,000 words. So you can see just how amazing these women's efforts were. I think when all is said and done, these 3 folks booked about a 1/2 time job's worth of transcription hours on this title. Epic effort.” Anna, Dana, and Mary have been volunteering for more than 8 years and 1,200 hours combined!

Submitted by Dan Leary 05/22/2017  

Book Cover For Complicated Fun

Establishing a Legacy

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 20, 2017

A visit to the Minnesota’s Greatest Generation (MGG) at the History Center is not complete until you’ve experienced volunteer and Air Force veteran Ted presenting on his experience of war during the C-47 media piece. He has not only been an asset to the Minnesota Historical Society’s volunteer program, but to the experiences of visitors of all ages. Ted has played a huge role in the Jenny, the C-47, and the Huey Helicopter projects as well. Ted has been volunteering with MNHS for over 9 years and has dedicated nearly 3,000 hours.

Ted has become a huge asset and advocate for MNHS. He is deeply connected to the community where he gives presentations at senior living home, libraries, and VAs. His hope is to help establish support groups for veterans suffering the effects of war.

Because of Ted’s humility, his presentation is not about him, but the importance of honoring the men and women who serve and have served our country. Ted’s presentation does not glorify war. He offers real-life experiences so others can understand the hardships many went through. His presentation has become such a staple to MGG that people have started bringing in groups just to see Ted.

Ted is quick to credit any success he may have to the incredibly gifted and creative professional staff that surrounds and supports him. He says “their willingness to mentor, answer every question, and help guide his presentations was the key to its success. Being around them makes this a volunteer heaven.” 

Ted has three main reasons why he gives the presentation. First, he does not want anyone to forget the sacrifices made during the war. Second, it is important to go to others and say thank you for their service. Lastly, it teachers the lesson that if you have something you want to do, don’t ever give up. Those who were a part of this war sacrificed their lives for children of the future to do or try anything they want.

It is not uncommon for visitors to leave comment cards or send letters to let us know how Ted’s presentation has touched them and to thank him for his service. Comments such as “Ted’s presentation was awesome!”, “Excellent presentation that will stay with me,” or “We’d like to personally thank him for his service. This experience was amazing because of his personal passion” are just a few of many wonderful messages from visitors.

One particular letter was written by a Hamline professor after visiting with his class. Part of the letter said, “Nevertheless I was impressed by Ted’s presentation. He brought a particular event of the war, D-Day, alive and added greatly to it by bringing attention to the unglamorous aspects of war in general, and that operation in particular. I was so impressed by his presentation that I emailed the director of the History Center to voice my belief that in Ted the Center has a treasure whose enthusiasm and energy are phenomenal.”

Volunteering at the MNHS has had a lasting impact on Ted as well. He said “I volunteer at MNHS because it meets my desire to feel useful and valued in an organizational mission that will leave the world better than I found it, and that primarily benefits my fellow human beings as a result.”

Establishing a Legacy

Gold Star Roll Project

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 15, 2017

Several volunteers have been working hard on the Gold Star Roll project. The Gold Star Roll is now live and searchable on our website!  Check it out at -- make sure the box is checked next to Gold Star Roll in the Record Type field (you may want to deselect the other record types) and put in a name; click on the name to view details about that person and click "Download PDF" to view the actual Gold Star Roll.

This was a whole new kind of project for MNHS and a large effort in its own right. Supervisor Sarah Barsness said “I'm incredibly proud of the work they’ve done. Not only have we made a really important set of records more widely available to researchers, but we've created sustainable model for future projects like this one.”

Thank you all!

Submitted by Sarah Barsness 05/15/2017

Dynamic Duo

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 10, 2017

Todd and Mary have been volunteering at MNHS for a combined total of more than 20 years! They have individually served more than 2,000 hours each!

Mary has been volunteering weekly in the Registrar’s Office for nearly four years and has been a tremendous asset. Her attention to detail and willingness to take on new duties and learn new skills has been remarkable, and a great help in keeping the wheels rolling to meet exhibit deadlines. She has also been able to help clean up some old records and files long in need of attention. Staff supervisor Nicole Delfino-Jansen said “I don’t know what we would do without her!”

Mary has also helped in the Exhibits department. Supervisor Kate Roberts said “Mary brings so many skills to the exhibit department. The thing about Mary is she has a background that’s very different from the backgrounds that many of us come from.” Mary has experience in both medical technology laboratory work and computer programming. Kate said “The skills she brings are skills that we simply don’t have in the department. For example, she has worked a lot with databases… When we are planning a project from start to finish, we really do look at the skills our volunteers bring us, and use those people to, honestly, sometimes plug holes and to do work that otherwise wouldn’t get done.”

Todd volunteers in the Development Office. He has had numerous projects, which include gathering demographics of schools who visit MNHS’s metro sites, creating internal programs, doing preliminary prospect research for new donors and contacts, helping Historic Sites pull demographics for the surrounding areas to help with short and long-term planning, and has even helped with database research and data entry!

One of the best finds Todd has was identifying the Tawani Foundation as a prospect for the Civil War Flag restoration project. Through the research and information he provided, the request was successful and received $148,000 in support of the project!

Supervisor Sherri Gebert-Fuller said “Todd has been so flexible and willing to do what is asked of him with an enthusiastic attitude. MNHS is very fortunate to have such a great volunteer helping us with our fundraising goals.”

Submitted by Sherri Gebert-Fuller, Nicole Delfino-Jansen, and Kate Roberts

Ken Finishes Another Project

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 2, 2017
Ken Hasselfeldt Finishes Another Project
Ken Hasselfeldt Finishes Another Project2

Two weeks ago, Volunteer Ken finished the Norton Peel color negatives and has started to scan the removed for preservation originals.

The Norton & Peel images are 350 uncataloged 8 x 10 images from the early 1960's and will be added to collections online this summer after cataloging is completed. This work started in November 2016 and ended March 28th, 2017.

The preservation originals are rare and fragile images created during and around the end of 1890's through 1910 in Minnesota's early statehood history.




Submitted by Eric Mortenson 05/02/2017




Exceptional Proofreader

By: Rebekah Bjork | May 2, 2017

Volunteer Karn has been working with the Marketing Department for the past 4 years. She comes in every Tuesday and Thursday to work on proofreading numerous materials, including the MNHS magazine, legacy reports, web pages, the online calendar, press reports, press kits, advertising materials, and much more!

She does a great job working on both small and large projects by proofreading and double checking all the information to make sure it is accurate. Supervisor Beth Black says “she does an awesome job because she knows our style.”

Thanks, Karn!


Submitted by Beth Black 05/02/2017