Minnesota's collection of rich history is being preserved

April 27, 2009

by Mark Ollig

We live in such a fast-paced society, with technological breakthroughs seemingly happening every day.

New innovations and advances in technology continue along at a dizzying pace.

Not that your local columnist doesn’t marvel upon the Internet and all these new computing devices, communication gadgets, and high speed networking improvements.

I am finding myself spending more time on news blogs and social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter – which are very popular these days – interacting with others and, of course, I am regularly checking out the latest YouTube videos.

By the way, the popular “Britain’s Got Talent” YouTube video of Susan Boyle will most likely be over 40 million views when you read this.

The latest habit for me these days is “texting,” or typing messages using my iPod.

Speaking of iPods, Apple is approaching its one-billionth iPod/iPhone application download.

Has learning all the new technology been more of a challenge for us middle age folks then the younger people, who take it for granted because they have grown up with it?

Some years back I recall hearing about a person who had been very successful in business being asked about all the “learning mountains” he climbed.

This person paused and then acknowledged, with some satisfaction, what he had learned, but said after he looks at those climbed mountains (which were now behind him), when he turns forward, he just sees more mountains waiting to be climbed.

Well, staying current with today’s technology is somewhat like looking at mountains waiting to be climbed, but then again, some people like to climb mountains because they are there.

For today’s column I wanted to take a breather from all the technology and type some words about a place which is preserving Minnesota’s past.

Minnesota is a great state to live in. I grew up, went to school, and have worked here all my life – as many of you out there have, too.

One of the places I have visited in person and on the Internet is the Minnesota Historical Society.

The Minnesota Historical Society currently holds many of our state’s historical collections. It includes almost 550,000 books, 37,000 maps, 250,000 photographs, 165,000 historical artifacts, 800,000 archaeological items, 38,000 feet of documents, 45,000 feet of government records, and 5,500 paintings, prints and drawings.

Nearly all of these collections are kept at the historical society’s History Center, where they are in climate-controlled conditions. The historical society makes sure these collections are preserved for future generations.

In 1849 – a year before Minnesota became a state – the historical society consisted of a small group of people, including Minnesota’s territorial governor, Alexander Ramsey.

Rev. Edward D. Neill moved to Minnesota in 1849, and wrote over a dozen historical books, including “History of Minnesota.”

Rev. Neill was called “one of the pioneers of Minnesota.” He was also the second secretary of the Minnesota Historical Society.

He was born in Philadelphia in 1823, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1842.

“Write your history as you go along, and you will confer a favor upon the future inhabitants of Minnesota, for which they will be ever grateful,” Rev. Edward D. Neill said at one of the Minnesota Historical Society’s first meetings.

Rev. Neill was also chancellor of the University of Minnesota from 1858 to1861.

Rev. Neill died Sept. 26, 1893, in St. Paul, MN.

To see a listing of the collections contained in the Neill family papers located at the Minnesota Historical Society, visit this Minnesota Historical Society library link: http://tinyurl.com/dzlfxx.

Today, the historical society’s work is supported by its membership of over 16,000 people, who collect and maintain these historical artifacts, papers, photographs, buildings and exhibit collections for all of us to see.

The Constitution of the State of Minnesota was signed Aug. 29, 1857. You can view this historical document at http://tinyurl.com/cv4p7k (Minnesota Historical Society library link).

The founding of the Minnesota Historical Society was established in this document under Article 15 Section 1.

The Minnesota Historical Society’s web site includes information on all of Minnesota’s historical sites, such as the Split Rock Lighthouse, Fort Snelling, Charles Lindbergh’s house, and 24 others.

If you would like a free guide to these Minnesota historic sites, you can obtain one by calling (651) 259-3000, or toll free at 800-657-3773, or by going to their web site and filling out an online order form.

I encourage you to visit the Minnesota Historical Society and view the many outstanding exhibits and art galleries showcasing Minnesota’s rich history.

The Minnesota Historical Society is located at 345 Kellogg Blvd W in St. Paul, and their web site is at http://www.mnhs.org.

Also be sure to check out the “Web Site of The Week,” forum, where the bits_blogger has been busy gathering more information about the historical society for you.