New Free Exhibit Examines Mass Incarceration in Minnesota and the US

For immediate release

Release dated: 
November 16, 2018
Media contacts: 

Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137,
Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148,

Quick facts: 

What: States of Incarceration exhibit
When: Nov. 20, 2018-Feb. 18, 2019
Where: Irvine Gallery, Minnesota History Center, St. Paul
Admission: Free 

New Free Exhibit Examines Mass Incarceration in Minnesota and the US

'States of Incarceration' takes on Minnesota’s high rate of Native imprisonment and connections to historical trauma

Today more than 2 million Americans, including around 10,000 men and women in Minnesota, are in jail or prison in the United States, the highest mass incarceration rate of any country in the world. 

On Tuesday, Nov. 20, "States of Incarceration"—the first national traveling exhibit and coordinated public dialogue exploring the history and future of mass incarceration in the US—will open in the Irvine Gallery at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. 

The States of Incarceration project was created by university students from around the country, including University of Minnesota students who researched Minnesota’s high rate of Native imprisonment, which is 12 times higher than the white population. 

In the exhibit, visitors can examine how centuries of Native trauma has shaped Minnesota prison population today, including unfair treaties, forced removal by the US government, the US-Dakota War of 1862 and Dakota concentration camp at Fort Snelling, and the Indian boarding school movement. 

The exhibit also contains new content created by the Minnesota History Center and local partners, exploring local stories as well as artifacts made by formerly incarcerated people. Plus, see Pine Ridge artist Quinton Maldonado’s collection of ledger drawings—an art form created in captivity by Native people—where he draws parallels between Native history and Native imprisonment today. 

“Long-term imprisonment is a new phase of historic trauma, breaking up families and eroding balance,” Maldonado says in his artist statement.  

The Minnesota History Center and its partners will host a series of related programs throughout the exhibit’s run, including an installation of cut flowers to acknowledge imprisonment in Minnesota and promote healing; a parallel exhibit on culturally focused prison education programs in Minnesota at the AIM Interpretive Center; a talk on art created by current and formerly incarcerated people and a conversation series on these issues in Minnesota and the US. 

"States of Incarceration" is a project of Humanities Action Lab and was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Humanities, Whiting Foundation, Open Society Foundations and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Local contributors to the exhibit are Oyate Hotanin, American Indian Prison Project, InEquality, American Indian Movement Interpretive Center, The Circle of Peace Movement, Calee Cecconi, and the following programs at the University of Minnesota: the Institute for Advanced Study, the Heritage Studies and Public History program, the Department of History, the Department of American Indian Studies, the School of Architecture, the College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota Libraries, and Liberal Arts Technologies and Innovation Services. 

About the Minnesota History Center
The Minnesota History Center holds the vast collections of the Minnesota Historical Society and is home to the History Center museum with innovative exhibits, Gale Family Library, café and museum store. The History Center is located at 345 W. Kellogg Blvd. in St. Paul. For more information, visit

The Minnesota Historical Society is a nonprofit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history. Visit us at

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.