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Archive for March, 2008

Army Nurse Ernestine Koranda

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Army nurse Lieutenant Ernestine Koranda administers an injection.By many measures, the MHS Collections are vast.  You can lose yourself in them, figuratively, or—if you have call to enter collections storage areas—you may indeed become lost.  (Yes, some storage spaces are that big.)  I prefer another measure: the poignancy of one person’s life.  In the case of Ernestine Koranda, one learns of the art and profession of nursing, the excitement and toils of wartime duty, and the grief occasioned by a premature death.

Shortly after graduating from Wadena High in 1930, Koranda enrolled at St. Paul’s Ancker Hospital School of Nursing.  It’s unlikely she anticipated World War II, her Army nurse duties, or her eventual deployment to Papua New Guinea.  She certainly could not have guessed that, as a result, her life would be documented in the MHS Collections.

If nicknames are endearments, then “Ernie” (to her Ancker classmates) and “Carmen” (to some of her fellow Army nurses) was well thought of.  A child during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, nurse Koranda specialized in contagious and children’s diseases.  While serving in the Army, Lieutenant Koranda fell in love.  She and fiancé Bob Middleton were to be married over Christmas 1943.  Tragically, Koranda’s plane crashed en route to Sydney, Australia, leaving no survivors.  The Army named a hospital ship in her honor—one of a select few so recognized before war’s end.Lieutenant Esther Berg escorts Lieutenant Ernestine Koranda's body to St. Paul, Minnesota.

Ms. Koranda’s life is documented variously in the MHS Collections.  Her student-nursing yearbook is in the book collection.  Her own image and words, as well as condolence letters, are in a manuscript collection.  In an oral history interview, fellow Ancker student Minna (Moehring) Freiberg remembers Ernestine as “a nice girl” and “a good nurse.”  The ship USAHS Ernestine Koranda can be seen in the photograph collection.  Her autographed student-nurse bib (pictured below) and funerary flag are in the three-dimensional collection.  And the St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press’s coverage of her returned remains is in the newspaper negative collection and newspaper microfilm collection (photo at right of friend with Koranda’s coffin).

The MHS Collections document historical epochs.  They can also illuminate personal experience.  Ideally, they serve both ends, as they do for Ernestine Koranda’s nursing career.

Christopher Welter, Government Records Assistant

Autographed corner of Koranda's student nurse bib.

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Fergus Falls State Hospital Papers

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Fergus Falls State Hospitalward-leave-card.jpg

Originally commissioned in 1885 by the State of Minnesota as the Third State Asylum for the Mentally Ill, the Fergus Falls State Hospital/Regional Treatment Center received its first patients in 1890.  The facility was self-sufficient with its own farm, food service, laundry, workshops and power plant.  The institution served 17 counties in northwestern and west central Minnesota, with the patient census reaching an all-time high of 2,078 in 1937,  The regional treatment center was one of the first multi-purpose campuses, serving those with developmental disabilities, chemical dependency as well as psychiatric illnesses.  For the past two decades patients have been moved to smaller community based facilities, and in 2007 the campus buildings were sold to the City of Fergus Falls

Selected historical records of the Fergus Falls State Hospital/Regional Treatment Center are preserved in the Minnesota State Archives, and with a few exceptions, are available for public use.

Fergus Falls Hospital LaundryFF State Hospital Laundry workers


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Civilian Conservation Corps

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

This month marks the 75th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps, established March 31, 1933. Curator Matt Anderson commemorates the occasion with a look at CCC pieces in the Minnesota Historical Society’s collection. (4 min. 32 sec. / 11.7 MB)

The CCC is a focus of the Minnesota’s Greatest Generation project. Visit MGG’s In Their Words site to read accounts from CCC participants. Explore John Buskowiak’s trunk through a virtual presentation. Add your CCC story (or that of a friend or relative) to MGG’s Share Your Story site. Visit the State Historic Preservation Office site to search for surviving Minnesota CCC structures, including Camp Rabideau in Beltrami County. Purchase a copy of Hard Work and a Good Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Minnesota in the Online Store.

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Foley World War II Canteen Set

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Canteen setThis humble canteen set, issued by the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, actually is a remarkable item. The canteen itself was made by the Vollrath Company of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, but the cup was made by the Foley Manufacturing Company of Minneapolis. The pieces were built to standard military specifications so, even though they were made 340 miles apart, the canteen fits inside the cup just as it should.

Prior to the war, Foley established itself as a successful cookware manufacturer. Its signature product, the Foley Food Mill, was an early hand-cranked version of the modern electric food processor. After Pearl Harbor, Foley joined many other U.S. companies in turning over its production facilities to wartime use. Given Foley’s experience with kitchen components, it was only natural that it be selected to produce canteens and mess kits for American soldiers overseas.

The canteen set is a welcome addition to the collection, and it reminds us of the many crucial efforts made on the home front during the struggle of 1941-1945.

Cup handle, reads “U.S. / FOLEY MFG. CO. / 1944″Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

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Selections from the Bishop Whipple Collection of American Indian Art

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008



“Selections from the Bishop Whipple Collection of American Indian Art,” on view Feb. 15 – April 13 [PLEASE NOTE: THIS EXHIBIT IS NOW CLOSED.] at the Minnesota History Center, is presented in cooperation with the Science Museum of Minnesota.

The exhibit features examples of traditional quillwork, beaded garments, bandolier bags, as well as a variety of objects and lace produced at mission schools in Minnesota.

To learn more about Bishop Whipple and the exhibit, please visit:

Bishop Whipple Collection of American Indian Art Podcast

Selections from Bishop Whipple Collection Exhibit

or come to the History Center!


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