Minnesota Historical Society M-Flame Logo
Collections

Collections Up Close

Archive for 2008

All Tractors, All the Time

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Interested in photographs of tractors?  The Minnesota Historical Society is the place to look!

The Minneapolis-Moline Negative Collection is now available to the public.  This collection holds 14,180, black and white negatives of tractors, agricultural implements, machinery, and power units manufactured by that company between the 1930s and 1960s. Each of these images is described in a searchable list now available in the Society’s online library catalog.  In addition, almost 2,000 of them have been printed and can be viewed in the online Photo and Art Database. Any image can  be ordered from the Library’s Copy Service.

The Minneapolis-Moline Company was formed in 1929 and located in Hopkins, Minnesota. Many images in this collection depict Minneapolis-Moline tractors, implements, and power units, in the factory or dealer showroom or working in farm fields or other outdoor settings. There are also images with perspectives of machinery parts for use in sales publications. A large number depict the interior and exterior of factories, especially the Hopkins and Lake Street plants. There are aerial views of the factories, closer views of specific factory buildings and machinery, as well as views of company dealerships and branch offices around the United States. The Minneapolis-Moline Company’s commercial photographer, Arthur H. Jensen, photographed these images and donated them to the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) in 1975.

The cataloging needs for a collection this size required years of time, people and resources. The Minneapolis-Moline Collectors group, its many supporters and other enthusiasts, contributed gifts of both funds and labor toward documenting this collection. Other volunteers and Society staff scanned and cataloged material in recent years, and the Society is now able to provide full access to this important and vast collection of images.

The only immediate and remaining task for this collection is to follow-up on a 1995 recommendation to sleeve the negatives. Over 50% of the collection is covered by red opaque (masking) that is flaking off the negatives.  Almost the entire collection of negatives is covered with scratches.  It was recommended that buffered, acid-free, enclosures be used to sleeve the negatives. This final step is an important one to advancing the preservation of the Minneapolis-Moline Negative Collection.  We hope to secure funds for this important, preservation effort, in the coming year.

Diane Adams-Graf, Sound and Visual Curator

Learn More:

Bookmark and Share

Merry Christmas from Minnesota’s Best Books

Thursday, December 18th, 2008


“Were you trying to lose my job for me? Ruin me?”
“I knew the little pup,” said French. “He’s a thief. I did what I had to do.”
“Since when did you start passing judgment on children?”
“Since I became Santa Claus.”
“And next summer, if you’re still Staggerford’s Indian? You’ll pass judgment on the tourist kids?”
French chuckled at himself in the mirror. “An Indian doesn’t pass judgment. That’s Santa’s job.”

Getting tired of the same old Christmas stories? Both Jon Hassler and J. F. Powers [see the last blog] wrote Christmas stories for the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts [MCBA], series of “Winter Books”. Hassler’s 1988 Staggerford’s Indian is the tale of French, a down and out Indian with PTSD, who gets a job as Santa in the town’s department store. It was the MCBA’s first Winter Book. Power’s The Old Bird: A Love Story, a sweet –not saccharin- story of an old man who gets a job near the holidays, was the 1991 Winter Book.

Like all the books in this series these titles are as beautiful as artifacts as they are as literature. For the most part, they are hand printed on hand made paper, illustrated, and very elegantly bound. The Minnesota Historical Society Library has a complete run of the MCBA Winter Books and I would encourage you to come take a look.

Other Minnesota Christmas stories we should hear about?

Bookmark and Share

The Hill Family Collection

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Early in 2008 the papers of legendary Minnesota businessman James J. Hill and several of his family members were transferred from the James J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul to the Minnesota History Center, just a few blocks away. In this podcast, learn about the history and contents of the collection and the reasons for the move, and catch a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the incredible process of relocating almost 2500 boxes of valuable historical documents, photographs, books and artifacts.

 
icon for podpress  YouTube: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
icon for podpress  Podcast Video [4:47m]: Download (1591)
icon for podpress  Transcript: Download (916)

Bookmark and Share

The Campaign Trail: Minnesota’s Historic Role in Modern Politics

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Political campaigns are chaotic, frenzied affairs and the best way to peer into this process is through the lens of a camera. Fortunately, Minnesota is blessed with having some of the best documentary photographers in the field. The exhibition, The Campaign Trail: Minnesota’s Historic Role in Modern Politics examines campaign photography by featuring work by three talented and dedicated political photographers in Minnesota-Tom Arndt, Terry Gydesen and Ann Marsden. Each has been documenting the political scene for many years, providing an important visual document for future generations. In particular, Tom Arndt and Terry Gydesen’s thoughtful and sensitive chronicle of the Mondale and Wellstone campaigns provide an in depth portrait of the candidate and his campaign.

Come see an exhibit of these fascinating images on view at the James J. Hill House Gallery until Feb. 22, 2009.

Above photo by Tom Arndt


Bookmark and Share

Minnesota’s Humanity in Print

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Barbara Tuchman coined the phrase, “Books are humanity in print,” and nowhere is this more obvious than the work of two of Minnesota’s literary giants, J. F. Powers and Jon Hassler. So our next two best Minnesota books are…

J. F. Powers. Morte D’Urban. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1962.

Jon Hassler. Staggerford. New York: Atheneum, 1977.

Powers and Hassler have much in common so it seems appropriate to mention them together. Both ended up at St. John’s University after interesting starts to their careers and both are thought of as “Catholic” writers although the term seems ridiculously limiting to me. As a bit of trivia, of interest only to a few of us here at the MHS, Powers earliest job was working for the WPA Historic Records Survey in Chicago. When World War II broke out Powers tried for, and was denied, status as a Conscientious Objector. He came to Minnesota to serve time in the Federal prison at Sandstone. He had the Irish penchant for writing short stories [read his "Lions, Harts, Leaping Does"] but became famous with his National Book Award winning novel of a priest in Stearns County, Mort D’Urban. Powers was married to writer Betty Wahl (Rafferty and Co.) who he met at St. Ben’s.

Jon Hassler came to Minnesota in a more traditional way, birth, and experienced life in the southern, urban, and northern parts of the state. He didn’t start writing until he was in his mid forties and Staggerford was his first novel for adults. It concerns life in a fictionalized Park Rapids and introduces characters that turn up in his subsequent work.  His recognizably Minnesota characters, like Powers, are wrought with foibles and pettiness and problems but are likable if not lovable in spite of their shortcomings. One of the smartest things that has been said about Hassler’s writings was from a reviewer who pointed out the unusual ability he has of “making good people interesting” [take that Jonathan Franzen].

Bookmark and Share

A Selection of Minnesota Quilts

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

A quilt can be something to keep you toasty warm on a chilly night, but it can also be a work of art. Quilts today are often created as serious artistic expression, but quilters of earlier centuries also could focus their work on artistry as much as utility. Textile curator Linda McShannock shows us some of her favorite examples of these artistic quilts from the Society’s collection, ranging in date from the 18th Century to the present.

Bookmark and Share
 
icon for podpress  Enhanced Podcast: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download (2710)
icon for podpress  View Transcript: Download (1275)

Ghost Poems

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Myers-Rich, Paulette. Ghost poems for the living: 13 sonnets by Shakespeare with distillations and images. Saint Paul: Traffic Street Press, 2005.

One of my favorite things in the MHS Library Collection is a fine press book by Paulette Myers-Rich, Ghost poems for the living: 13 sonnets by Shakespeare with distillations and images.

The beauty of this work is really beyond description; to hold it in one’s hands is a joy. It is perfectly constructed, bound using linen cloth and flax papers created by the artist and letterpress printed on photo rag paper in an edition of 26.

What I love best about it is its simplicity and honesty; the whole design lends credence to its story. The story is the oldest there is, of love and loss and memory. In the book, Paulette presents a Shakespearian sonnet (which is about as good as it can possibly get in my estimation) with a subtle image of a recently dead flower above. On the following page is her “distillation,” which consists of a negative image of the flower, and a new poem, which is created by removing carefully chosen words from the Shakespeare sonnet. Paulette’s poetic skills shine through her careful choices for removal. The new poems are not Shakespeare, but they are not trying to be; they are something new, and still deeply beautiful. I believe this act gets to the point of dealing with loss; something is removed, yet something new can be created.

Come see it! It is available in our Library for viewing upon request. Not surprisingly, it won the award for the best fine press book at the 2006 Minnesota Book Awards.

Lori Williamson, Acquisitions Coordinator




Bookmark and Share

2008 Republican National Convention

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Minnesota delegation's floor standardFor four days in September, the political spotlight shown on the Twin Cities as they hosted the 2008 Republican National Convention. Delegates, reporters, protestors and police officers descended upon Minnesota to take part. In the months since, we’ve collected approximately 120 different objects associated with the event.

Highlights from the convention itself include the Minnesota delegation’s floor standard, two delegate chairs, informational signs that guided delegates through the Xcel Energy Center, and 56 pieces of the confetti – each piece bearing a color photo of John McCain – that fell over the crowd after the nominee’s acceptance speech.

From the media, we collected eight different credential cards – two for each day of the convention – used by staffers with Minnesota Public Radio and KARE-11 TV. We also collected a photojournalist’s camera that was broken beyond repair as he covered protests near Mears Park on September 2.Media Floor Pass used by MPR staff

Two protestors donated handmade anti-war signs they carried on the John Ireland Boulevard bridge during the September 4 demonstration, as well as a pocket guide to protestors’ civil rights issued by the ACLU. We received a “Peace Keepers” T-shirt worn by one of the volunteers who formed a nonviolent barrier between protestors and police officers. We also collected one of the disposable “PlastiCuff” wrist restraints used by police officers to secure arrested individuals.

Our week at the center of American political life was a thrilling one. I’d like to think that we’ve preserved a little bit of that excitement along with these objects.

Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

Learn More:

Bookmark and Share

Professional (i.e. successful) Explorers

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Well, I got my wrist slapped for snottily suggesting that Pike was not the gold standard for either an explorer or a diplomat. To avoid sounding critical of iconic Minnesota figures I’m sticking to the undisputed success stories with the next two nominations for Minnesota’s 150 best books.

Detail of Nicollet's Map of the Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River

Henry R. Schoolcraft. Narrative of an Expedition Through the Upper Mississippi to Itasca Lake, the Actual Source of this River; Embracing an Exploratory Trip Through the St. Croix and Burntwood (or Broule) Rivers. New York: Harper, 1834.

J[oseph] N. Nicollet. Report Intended to Illustrate a Map of the Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River, Made by I.[sic]N. Nicollet, While in the Employ Under the Bureau of the Corps of Topographical Engineers. Washington: …. 1843.

Schoolcraft’s 1821 A Narrative Journal of Travels… to the Source of the Mississippi River documented his earlier expedition with Lewis Cass, on which he was the geologist. That trip incorrectly identified Cass Lake as the river’s head. When Schoolcraft went back in 1832 to settle conflicts between the Ojibwe and Dakota, he took the opportunity do further explorations and create an accurate map of the region west of Lake Superior. At long last he correctly identified the veritas caput (“true head”) of the Mississippi. Although Schoolcraft deserves great credit for his work, an Indian named Oza Windib, or Yellow Head, led him directly to Lake Itasca. God forbid Indians ever get credit for discoveries, so it has recently been suggested that Oza Windib was the first Swede in Minnesota. I suspect that Schoolcraft would have noticed that small fact.

Yet another Frenchman figures prominently in our history. Over the course of three expeditions to this region, Joseph Nicollet, with Carver’s Narrative in hand, completed the first scientific measurement of the upper Mississippi territory correcting some of Pike and Schoolcraft’s distortions along the way.

I admit to being prone to hyperbole, but it is difficult to overstate the importance of Nicollet’s map. It was so accurate and complete, with careful attention to both the original and European place names, that it was copied for decades and is still useful to researchers. Unfortunately, Nicollet did not live to see his map published. He died of a stomach ailment shortly before the U. S. Senate document was printed. The House printed the same report two years later. There are also two known copies of a wall map version of Nicollet. It breaks my heart to report that the MHS was an unsuccessful bidder on that map in 2006 when it sold at auction for $64,000.

Detail of Nicollet's Map of the Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River

Bookmark and Share

Clem Haupers: Minnesota Artist

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Art Curator Brian Szott discusses the life and work of St. Paul artist Clem Haupers. From his birth in St. Paul, his time in Paris, his stint as Minnesota director of the Federal Art Project to his art and teaching career afterwards, Szott combines the timeline of Haupers’s life with a critical appreciation of his paintings and prints. Highlights include many examples of the art itself along with archival interviews with the artist.

 
icon for podpress  YouTube: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
icon for podpress  Podcast Video: Download (1892)
icon for podpress  View Transcript: Download (945)

View photos of Clement Haupers, Clara Gardner Mairs, and their artwork. Learn more about the Federal Arts Project in Minnesota. You can also explore Haupers’s and Mairs’s papers, and read and hear interviews with Haupers, in the History Center Library.

Bookmark and Share


An Ounce of Preservation: A Guide to the Care of Papers and Photographs