Minnesota Historical Society
Formation1849; 175 years ago (1849)
HeadquartersSaint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
Websitewww.mnhs.org

The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) is a nonprofit educational and cultural institution dedicated to preserving the history of the U.S. state of Minnesota. It was founded by the territorial legislature in 1849, almost a decade before statehood. The Society is named in the Minnesota Constitution. It is headquartered in the Minnesota History Center in downtown Saint Paul.

Although its focus is on Minnesota history, it is not constrained by it. Its work on the North American fur trade has been recognized in Canada as well.[1]

MNHS holds a collection of nearly 550,000 books, 37,000 maps, 250,000 photographs, 225,000 historical artifacts,[2] 950,000 archaeological items,[3] 38,000 cubic feet (1,100 m3) of manuscripts,[4] 45,000 cubic feet (1,300 m3) of government records, 5,500 paintings, prints and drawings; and 1,300 moving image items.[citation needed]

Since 2011, MNopedia: The Minnesota Encyclopedia, has been an online "resource for reliable information about significant people, places, events, and things in Minnesota history." The work is funded through a Legacy Amendment Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund grant and administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.[5] The Minnesota Historical Society Press (MNHS Press) publishes books on the history and culture of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest with the goal of advancing research, supporting education, and sharing diverse perspectives on Minnesota history.[6] MNHS Press is the oldest publishing company in the state of Minnesota and the largest historical society press in the nation, with more than 500 books in print. MNHS Press also produces the quarterly magazine, Minnesota History (journal).

History

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Sketch of Charles K. Smith, founder of the Minnesota Historical Society

The Minnesota Historical Society was established on October 20, 1849, as the fifth act of the Minnesota Territorial Legislature.[7]: 294  The Society was established earlier than was common for historical societies in other states. As Territorial Governor, Alexander Ramsey recommended saving every newspaper published in the Minnesota Territory. Ramsey stated "the preservation by a community, of materials for the composition of its history, when a future time shall require it to be written, is a task not without its uses; and, when early commenced, easily accomplished."[7]: 295  Charles K. Smith, the first Secretary of the Minnesota Territory, drew up the act and following the Society's charter, Smith and 18 other incorporators formally organized the Society on November 15, 1849.[7]: 296 

Upon organization, the Society had no headquarters. The Society initially used the Territorial Secretary's office, hotel rooms, and store lofts. In 1855, the Society was granted a room in the Minnesota State Capitol. Enabled by an 1856 amendment to the Society's charter allowing the Society to own unlimited property, the Society began a capital campaign to fund the construction of its own building.[7]: 299 .

Daniel A. Robertson, former editor and proprietor of the Minnesota Democrat served as chairman of the building committee. Robertson raised $1,500 via the sale of sixty-two lifetime memberships to the Society in order to fund the acquisition of two lots to serve as the site of a building to house the society. On the expectation that fundraising would continue at a similar place, plans were made to begin a two-year building construction[7]: 300  On June 24, 1856, the Society held a gala with invitations sent to scientific and literary guests from across the nation to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone of the building. The gala was reported in the Pioneer and Democrat as the "grandest gala day in the history of our city". Two weeks later, the building committee had exhausted their funds and passed a resolution to assess annual members five dollars in order to pay for the protection of the building foundation against winter frosts at the cost of $100.[7]: 301  The society approved a search for an architect who could draft a structure that could be built for $15,000 or less. Following the protection of the foundation, work on the building ceased as the Panic of 1857 resulted in the impoverishment of many formerly wealthy Minnesotans.[7]: 301 

A picture from above of a building with multiple granite columns
The former Historical Society building seen from the roof of the State Capitol

The Society would continue to operate out of the Capitol until the Minnesota State Legislature appropriated $500,000 for the construction of a fireproof historical building via an act passed in 1913 and amended in 1915. The building was completed in 1917 and the Society finished the process of moving its collections on March 1, 1918.[7]: 317  The building currently serves as the Minnesota Judicial Center.[8] The Society moved to its current location, the Minnesota History Center, in 1992.

State historic sites

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The Minnesota Historical Society operates 31 historic sites and museums, 26 of which are open to the public. MNHS manages 16 sites directly and 7 in partnerships where the society maintains the resources and provides funding. 6 sites are being held for preservation but are closed to public access, and five are self-guided sites with interpretive signage.[9][3] Seven of the sites are National Historic Landmarks and 16 others are on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Seven sites lie within Minnesota state parks, and three are elements of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.[10]

Site name Image Location Era of features Year added to MNHS Management[3] Remarks
Alexander Ramsey House St. Paul 1872–1964 1964 Direct Home of Minnesota governor and U.S. Congressman Alexander Ramsey with original furnishings.[11] NRHP
Birch Coulee Battlefield Morton September 2, 1862 1976 Self-guided Site of the Battle of Birch Coulee, the deadliest battle for U.S. troops in the Dakota War of 1862.[12] NRHP.
Charles Lindbergh House and Museum Charles A. Lindbergh State Park 1906–1920 1969 Direct House of U.S. Congressman Charles August Lindbergh and his son, aviator Charles Lindbergh.[13] National Historic Landmark[14]
Comstock House Moorhead 1882 1964 Partnership Restored home of U.S. Congressman and businessman Solomon Comstock with its original furnishings.[15] NRHP
Folsom House Taylors Falls 1854–1968 1968 Partnership Restored home of businessman, politician, and historian W.H.C. Folsom with its original furnishings.[16] NRHP contributing property
Forest History Center Grand Rapids 1900–1934 1975 Direct Recreated logging camp and exhibits on humankind's relationship with Minnesota's forests.[17]
Fort Renville Lac qui Parle State Park 1822–1846 1973[18] Preservation Location of a fur trading post established by Joseph Renville.[19]
Fort Ridgely Fort Ridgely State Park 1853–1867 1969 Self-guided Fort built to keep the peace around a Dakota reservation, but attacked twice during the Dakota War of 1862.[20] NRHP
Grand Mound International Falls 200 BCE–1400 1970 Preservation Five burial mounds include the largest prehistoric structure remaining in the Upper Midwest, 25 feet (7.6 m) high and 100 feet (30 m) in diameter.[21] National Historic Landmark[22]
Harkin Store New Ulm 1870–1901 1973 Direct General store first built in the 1870s with much of the original inventory still on display.[23] NRHP
Historic Forestville Forestville Mystery Cave State Park 1853–1899 1978 Direct The remains of the once-bustling 19th century town of Forestville, which became a ghost town after the railroad passed it by.[24] NRHP
Historic Fort Snelling Fort Snelling State Park 1820–1946 1969 Direct Portions of the fort have been restored to their original frontier appearance, while later additions served as barracks for soldiers training during World War II.[25] A National Historic Landmark[26] and part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.[10]
James J. Hill House St. Paul 1891–1921 1978 Direct Mansion of railroad magnate James J. Hill.[27] National Historic Landmark[28]
Jeffers Petroglyphs Jeffers 3000 BCE–1750 1966 Direct Exposed rocks bear ancient Native American petroglyphs.[29] NRHP
Lac qui Parle Mission Montevideo 1835–1854 1973[18] Partnership Reconstructed wooden church where missionaries worked to convert the Dakota.[30] NRHP
Lower Sioux Agency Lower Sioux Indian Reservation 1853– 1967 Partnership Museum depicting the lives of Dakota people before and after the Dakota War of 1862.[31] NRHP
Marine Mill Marine on St. Croix 1839–1895 1972 Self Guided Ruins of Minnesota's first commercial sawmill.[32] NRHP
Mill City Museum Minneapolis 1874–1965 2002 Direct Museum of the flour milling industry that built Minneapolis, within the ruins of the Washburn "A" Mill,[33] a National Historic Landmark.[34] Part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.[10]
Mille Lacs Indian Museum Mille Lacs Indian Reservation Prehistory–present 1959 Direct Museum of the history and culture of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.[35]
Minnehaha Depot Minneapolis 1875–1963 1964 Partnership Former train station near Minnehaha Falls with "gingerbread" Victorian architecture. Operated by the Minnesota Transportation Museum.[36]
Minnesota History Center St. Paul Prehistory–present Direct Minnesota Historical Society's headquarters, with permanent exhibits about Minnesota, changing exhibits about national history, and a library.[37]
Minnesota State Capitol St. Paul 1905–present 1969 Direct Tours and exhibits of the state's seat of government.[38] NRHP
Morrison Mounds Battle Lake 690 BCE[39] 1968[21] Preservation Includes the oldest burial mound in Minnesota.[40] NRHP
Oliver Kelley Farm Elk River 1850–1901 1961 Direct Frontier farmstead of Oliver Hudson Kelley, one of the founders of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry.[41] National Historic Landmark[42]
Sibley Historic Site Mendota 1838–1910 1996 Partnership Homes of Henry Hastings Sibley, Minnesota's first state governor, and fur trader Jean-Baptiste Faribault.[43] NRHP and part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.[10]
Snake River Fur Post Pine City 1804 1965 Direct Recreated North West Company trading post and Ojibwe encampment.[44] NRHP
Split Rock Lighthouse Split Rock Lighthouse State Park 1910–1969 1976 Direct Clifftop lighthouse on Lake Superior restored to its 1920s appearance.[45] National Historic Landmark[22]
Stumne Mounds Pine City 1968[21] Preservation Group of linear burial mounds near the Snake River.[39] NRHP
Traverse des Sioux St. Peter Prehistory–1869 1981 Self Guided Site of a river ford, the signing of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, and a former town.[46] NRHP
Upper Sioux Agency Upper Sioux Agency State Park 1854–1862 1969[47] Preservation Location of a federal agency established to convert Dakotas to a Euro-American farming lifestyle, but destroyed in the Dakota War of 1862.[19] NRHP
W.W. Mayo House Le Sueur 1859– 1970 Partnership Home built by William Worrall Mayo, founder of the Mayo Clinic, and later home of Carson Nesbit Cosgrove, founder of the Green Giant food company.[48] NRHP

Document depositories

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These publications are described in more detail in an online format (without the downloadable document formats available above), at the MHC's own Digital History Books page.[49]

References

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  1. ^ "The story of the Canadian fur trade owes a great debt . . . for research and general popularization, to the Minnesota Historical Society." Morse, Eric (1979). Fur Trade Routes of Canada. Minoqua, WI: NorthWord Press. p. 74. ISBN 1-55971-045-4.
  2. ^ "Artifact Collection". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "Historic sites and museums : MNHS.ORG". October 7, 2012. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2022.
  4. ^ "Manuscripts Collection". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  5. ^ "MNopedia: Minnesota Encyclopedia". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  6. ^ "Minnesota Historical Society Press". MNHS Press.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Berthel, Mary Wheelhouse; Cater, Dean Harold (December 1949). "The Minnesota Historical Society: Highlight of a Century". Minnesota History. 30 (4): 293–330. JSTOR 20175482. Retrieved July 23, 2022.
  8. ^ a b El-Hai, Jack. "A Brief History of the Minnesota Historical Society". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved July 24, 2022.
  9. ^ "2021 Minnesota Statutes:138.662 HISTORIC SITES". Office of the Revisor of Statutes:Minnesota Legislature. 2021. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  10. ^ a b c d National Park Service (February 16, 2011). "Mississippi National River and Recreation Area: Plan Your Visit". U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
  11. ^ "Alexander Ramsey". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  12. ^ "Birch Coulee Battlefield". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  13. ^ "Charles A. Lindbergh House". Minnesota Historical Society. Archived from the original on April 11, 2008. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  14. ^ "Lindbergh, Charles A. Sr., House". National Park Service. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  15. ^ "Comstock House". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  16. ^ "Folsom House". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  17. ^ "Forest History Center". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  18. ^ a b Meyer, Roy W. (1991). Everyone's Country Estate: A History of Minnesota's State Parks. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87351-266-9.
  19. ^ a b "Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway: Discovery Sites". Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway Alliance. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  20. ^ "Fort Ridgely". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  21. ^ a b c "Report to the Minnesota Legislature on the Future of the Grand Mound State Historic Site, Koochiching County" (PDF). Minnesota Historical Society. January 31, 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 26, 2022.
  22. ^ a b "Listing of National Historic Landmarks by State: Minnesota" (PDF). National Historic Landmarks Survey. National Park Service. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  23. ^ "Harkin Store". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  24. ^ "Historic Forestville". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  25. ^ "Historic Fort Snelling". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  26. ^ "Fort Snelling". National Park Service. Archived from the original on March 13, 2008. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  27. ^ "James J. Hill House". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  28. ^ "Hill, James J., House". National Park Service. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  29. ^ "Jeffers Petroglyphs". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  30. ^ "Lac qui Parle Mission". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  31. ^ "Lower Sioux Agency". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  32. ^ "Marine Mill". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  33. ^ "Mill City Museum". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  34. ^ "Washburn A Mill Complex". National Park Service. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  35. ^ "Mille Lacs Indian Museum". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  36. ^ "Minnehaha Depot". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  37. ^ "Minnesota History Center". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  38. ^ "Minnesota State Capitol". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  39. ^ a b Johnson, Elden (1988). Prehistoric Peoples of Minnesota. Minnesota Historical Society Press. ISBN 978-0-87351-223-7.
  40. ^ "TimePieces: Mounds". Minnesota Historical Society. Archived from the original on November 9, 2004. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  41. ^ "Oliver H. Kelley Farm". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  42. ^ "Kelley, Oliver H., Homestead". National Park Service. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
  43. ^ "Sibley House Historic Site". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  44. ^ "North West Company Post". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  45. ^ "Split Rock Lighthouse". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  46. ^ "Traverse des Sioux". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  47. ^ "Upper Sioux Agency State Park" (PDF). Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. June 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 26, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2022.
  48. ^ "W.W. Mayo House". Minnesota Historical Society. Archived from the original on September 24, 2007. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  49. ^ "Digital History Books". Minnesota History Center. Archived from the original on April 3, 2013. Retrieved November 24, 2012.
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This article incorporates text from MNopedia, which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.