Virtual Viewing

What is a Virtual Viewing Session?

A virtual viewing appointment allows you to view books, documents from archival boxes and folders, video and sound clips, maps, or photographs on your computer without visiting the library. 
In a teleconference session a member of the staff will act as your “research hands” to open folders, turn pages, mark files for copying, move the camera over maps or oversized items, and control audio or video clips. These sessions are 30 minutes long, currently offered Tuesday or Wednesday mornings or afternoons, and must be booked at least one week in advance.

Who can use this service?

This service is open to any researcher who wants to view specific materials that are held at the Gale Family Library. This means you will need titles and locator/call numbers for your items when you make your appointment. 
This service is not meant for researchers with in-depth reference questions or who are in need of advice on how to start your search. If you have research questions or need advice about your research, please email the library at or call us at 651-259-3300.

What materials can be viewed with this service?

Various types of records from the Minnesota Historical Society’s Archives and Manuscript collections. Including:

  • Personal papers and correspondence.
  • State and local government records.
  • Corporate materials.
  • Pamphlets.
  • Photographs
  • Maps

Books, including:

  • Family histories and genealogies.
  • Yearbooks.
  • Catalogs.
  • City directories.

Audio or video files including:

What materials cannot be viewed?

Materials on microfilm or microfiche (much of our microfilm collection can be Interlibrary loaned).
Materials with potential restrictions, such as records from state hospitals, correctional facilities, state schools, or orphanages. See our Research Guide on State Institutions for more information on these kinds of materials.

What do I need to make use of this service?

Researchers need to have access to a computer with internet access that can teleconference, and speakers or headphones with a microphone so that you can communicate with staff. Researchers also need an email address.
Note: For researchers who experience hearing loss or who would prefer to communicate via text chat during the session, please fill out the request form at the bottom of this page and note that you would like to communicate via text for your session in the final comment box.

After filling out our Virtual Viewing Session request form, a technician will contact you by email to set up your appointment. Staff will send you an invite to a Google Meet that you will be able to join even if you do not have or use Gmail. 
During the thirty-minute teleconference session, the technician will use a document camera and special software to stream images of the materials to your screen. You will be able to ask the staff person to advance, go back, zoom in or out, move the materials under the camera, or any other directional questions. You will also be able to request scans of individual or multiple pages.

How much does it cost?

The sessions are free of charge. During your session, if you want scans of particular materials there will be a fee of 20¢ per page or $5 per folder.

How do I request a session?

Fill out our Virtual Viewing Session request form in full, including titles and locator/call numbers of the materials you wish to view. If you need any help or have further questions please call the library at 651-259-3300 or email with “Virtual Viewing Questions” in the subject line.