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Artists Selected for 2014/15 Native American Artist-in-Residence Program

Posted byLori Williamson on 18 Aug 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

The Minnesota Historical Society has recently awarded three six-month paid residencies to artists Jessica Gokey, Pat Kruse and Gwen Westerman. Each artist works in a traditional media, which together represent many of the major historical art forms of the region: beadwork, birchbark, and textiles (ribbonwork).

These residencies were created to provide opportunities for artists to use collections at MNHS, as well as at other institutions, in order to develop their respective art forms. These residencies, while rooted in historical research, are designed to provide a platform for artists to move their art forward. While in residence, each of these artists will continue to develop research and community outreach plans that delve deeply and broadly into their communities, to gain new knowledge and to share their expertise.

Jessica Gokey, is a beadwork artist who lives in the Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) community in Hayward, Wisconsin. She has been beading for more than ten years and shares her knowledge with members of the community by teaching at the LCO Ojibwa Community College. Gokey believes that sharing her “knowledge of traditional Ojibwe beadwork will help preserve the art of beadwork for future generations.” She plans on researching the extensive bandolier bag and other beadwork collections.

Pat Kruse, a birch bark artist who lives in the Mille Lacs community in Minnesota, has been working with birch bark for more than 30 years. Kruse creates birch bark products “to honor the old ways and the ancestors that practiced these ways.” He will research the birch bark collections and continue to build an apprentice relationship with his son, in order to pass on this traditional knowledge.

Gwen Westerman, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, is a textile artist who lives in Good Thunder, Minnesota. As a member of the six generations of women in her family who have made quilts, she sees quilts as having not only a utilitarian function but also as containing stories. Westerman has been expanding her textile arts with other traditional art forms to “find new ways to tell our stories.” She plans on researching and revitalizing traditions of Dakota ribbonwork.

The Artists-in-Residence were selected based on the recommendations of a panel consisting of experts in the field of Native American arts and culture. The panel members are Sasha Brown (Santee Dakota), Joe Horse Capture (A’aninin Tribe of Montana) and Scott Shoemaker (Miami Nation).

The Native American Artist-in-Residence program is made possible in part by a grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.

Rita Walaszek, Collections Assistant
Ben Gessner, Native American Artist-in-Residence Program Coordinator

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Hudson Bridge Drawing

Posted byLori Williamson on 31 Jul 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

One of the recent additions to the State Archives is a large collection of bridge plans from the Bridge Division of the Department of Transportation (DOT). This set is made up primarily of plans and blueprints for nearly 1,000 bridges from around the state spanning from 1895 to 1973. It also contains two unique pencil drawings, including this one for a bridge crossing the St. Croix River. This drawing shows a proposed plan for a truss bridge (DOT bridge number 5999) that wasn’t actually built, connecting Lakeland, Minnesota and Hudson, Wisconsin, dated October 10, 1945. The drawing has the initials R.W.C. but the full name of the illustrator is not known. This drawing was discovered by one of our volunteers as he went through the collection sheet by sheet and made a complete inventory of it. The other bridge in this collection that has a pencil drawing is bridge number 5895 in Hastings, MN.

This collection is an addition to bridge plans we already hold from the Department of Transportation.

Anjanette Schussler, Government Records Assistant

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New Library Lobby Exhibit: Icons of Minnesota

Posted byLori Williamson on 02 Jul 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

Minnesota is many things to many people. We love our outdoors, our sports and cultural life, and our symbols. How do we define and identify ourselves? Who are we, in object form?

Shown in this small exhibit are some examples of things which have become iconic and represent Minnesota in popular culture. From official symbols such as the state flower and seal to our sporting personas to why we are called the Gopher state, see some of the basis for the stories we tell ourselves here.

This exhibit is on view during Library open hours through August 30, 2014.

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New Library Exhibit – From the Closet to the Altar: a Modern History of LGBTQ Communities in Minnesota

Posted byLori Williamson on 14 May 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

Come to the MNHS library lobby during library open hours and take a walk through the recent history of LGBTQ politics, activism, and controversy in Minnesota.

The idea for the From the Closet to the Altar exhibit was in part prompted by a recent acquisition of organizational records from Project 515. Project 515 has the unique standing as being probably one of the only organizations in Minnesota pleased to be closing their doors in 2014. Their mission, “to achieve equal rights for same sex couples under the law”, was accomplished on May 14, 2013 when Governor Mark Dayton signed HF 1054 into law. This law changed the definition of civil marriage from “between a man and a women” to “between two persons”, while striking language designating lawful marriage as “only between two persons of the opposite sex”.  Minnesotans have a range of thoughts regarding same-sex relationships, love, and marriage but the fact remains that our state has a long and colorful history surrounding our LGBTQ populace.

While some of the content in this exhibit may be disturbing to modern viewers, the Society is proud to showcase materials from our collections reflecting the varied and sometimes contentious history of LGBTQ communities and interested parties in Minnesota.

The exhibit will be on view until July 7, 2014.

Shelby Edwards, Assistant Manuscript Curator

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Legacy Research Fellowship Announcement

Posted byLori Williamson on 25 Apr 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

Awards were recently granted to several scholars to support research on Minnesota history conducted in the Minnesota Historical Society’s Gale Family Library. We are very pleased to share the winners of these grants and what they will be working on with you. All recipients will write MNopedia articles and several hope to produce Minnesota History articles as well.

William Millikan’s project is Financing the Development of Minnesota with Indian Lands.  As Rhoda Gilman said in her letter of recommendation: “…his proposed work on the use of public land acquired through Indian treaties to underwrite financial instruments that could be used by entrepreneurs to develop private industrial, transportation, and mining empires has the potential to have not only regional and national significance, but possibly international as well.”

Ellen Manovich is a graduate student in history at the University of Minnesota researching the history of four Minneapolis neighborhoods surrounding the University of Minnesota. The committee was pleased to recommend funding some urban history, since Minneapolis is especially lacking when it comes to good histories.

Bruce White will compile an annotated bibliography of primary sources on 19th-century MN politician Henry Rice, looking toward writing a biography of Rice once those are in hand.  Rice was very influential in Minnesota and regional politics and in Indian affairs, but unlike Ramsey and Sibley he left only a small collection of papers.

Andrea Klein Bergman is a social scientist who has studied vulnerable populations, including immigrant refugees. She has done oral histories with the Bhutanese community in Minnesota and here proposes “a case study of the socio-cultural integration of Tibetan Americans in Minnesota,” with a view to recommend changes in service to Tibetan immigrants to help them participate fully in Minnesota society.

Lois Glewwe will continue her research on the life of Dakota missionary Jane Smith Williamson, sister of Thomas Williamson, who founded the mission to the Dakota at Lac qui Parle.  In addition to Williamson’s personal story, Glewwe will investigate the mission school and their relationship with government schools for Native children.

Therese Cain brings training in political science and nonprofit management to her proposal to study why a single county in rural western Minnesota has voted Democratic in national elections since 1932, while all the surrounding counties have voted Republican.  Why is Swift County Blue? is the first stage of a project that Cain and her fellow researcher, anthropologist Sharon Doherty, have planned for a book.

Retired law professor Howard Vogel, a contributor to the award-winning book Mni Sota Makoce: Minnesota is a Dakota Place and a student of religion as well as law, will study Stephen R. Riggs’s role in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. Recently Vogel brought his work on Restorative Justice to the question of the US-Dakota War of 1862 and its results for the Dakota people. Looking at Riggs’s role in that treaty is part of a larger project to understand how Christian missionaries understood their role of proselytizing the Dakota.

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New Library Exhibit – Native American Beadwork in the MNHS’ Collections

Posted byLori Williamson on 13 Mar 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

Come see the new Library Lobby exhibit on Native America beadwork, open the same hours as the Library.

Minnesota Historical Society is the repository for approximately 9,000 ethnographic objects of Native American origin. These objects include everything from basketry and ceramics to clothing and pipes, and span two and a half centuries. Perhaps 1,000 of those objects are embellished with beads; necklaces, leggings, sashes, shirts, pipe bags, watch fobs, feather bonnets, and things made for sale to the tourist trade are all represented in the Society’s collection, as are objects from every corner of the U.S. and Canada. Due to MNHS’ mission to specifically collect objects that are meaningful to the history of the state of Minnesota, the overwhelming majority of these items come from the immediate area. As a reflection of this regional depth, most of the Native beadwork in our collection falls into either the Plains (for example, Dakota, Lakota, Cheyenne) or Woodland (Ojibwe, Ho-Chunk, Cree) category.

This small exhibit draws specifically from MNHS’ collection of Native American beadwork. It is organized chronologically, beginning with the vitrine to the left when facing the glass doors to the Gale Family Library, and continuing in a clockwise fashion around the library registration desk. Within this exhibit one can explore pre-contact precursors to indigenous beadwork; different techniques used in beadwork; a glimpse of the wide variety of cultural styles in Native beadwork across the U.S. and Canada; how beaded objects functioned in the changing 19th century Native economy; and the modern resurgence of Native American beadwork.

More information can be found on these objects at Minnesota Historical Society’s collections website:


This exhibit will be on view until the end of April.

Leah Bowe
Collections Associate, NAGPRA

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Swee-Tone perfume: what does a gallon of perfume have to do with bootlegging?

Posted byLori Williamson on 04 Feb 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

In the early 1960s Ancker Hospital was located at Jefferson Avenue and Colborne Street in St. Paul. The hospital was preparing to move to a new location and by 1967 the old campus was completely demolished. A local “chunker” or “picker” (antiquer) had a friend working on a demolition crew at the old campus. Behind a false wall in a warehouse building the men discovered a cache of 70 gallon bottles of perfume made by the Nipola Company of St. Paul. This perfume was manufactured in the late 1920s, during the Prohibition Era.

Throughout Prohibition (1920-1933), the United States government distributed denatured grain alcohol for industrial use. Denatured alcohol contained additives making it poisonous, though still useful for commercial purposes. Thousands died as a result of drinking denatured alcohol stolen and resold by bootleggers. Soon, chemists employed by bootleggers began to “renature” the industrial alcohol, redistilling it into drinkable liquor. One product targeted by bootleggers was commercial perfume, which had high alcohol content that could be chemically extracted for use in bootlegged liquor.

Scan from film: Feb 11 1930 St. Paul Pioneer Press front page “Nipola Co. …"

In February, 1930, thirty-one corporations across the country were indicted for illegally diverting 1,000,000 gallons of government alcohol from legitimate commercial uses to bootleggers, in violation of national Prohibition laws. These companies were accused of taking part in a nation-wide syndicate headquartered in Chicago. Among the businesses named in the indictment was Nipola Company of St. Paul, Minnesota, a perfume manufacturer.

Nipola produced a number of scents beginning in 1927, including Swee-Tone, Ramona, and Lucky Lindy (after Charles Lindbergh). Of these perfumes, at least Swee-Tone was distributed nationally. The label on the gallon jug reads: “SWEE-TONE gives a delightful odor, refreshes the premises, and is a deodorizer as well. It is a “Many-Purpose” perfume–a standard, high-grade product.” Whether officers of the company were active in bootlegging or its products were merely being used by bootleggers is unclear. Luckily for Nipola and the other companies named in the indictment, Prohibition was repealed before the case could come to trial.

Be sure to stop by the current Library exhibit Dry Times: Temperance, Prohibition, and Gangsters in Minnesota 1900 – 1933.

Learn More:

Sondra Reierson, Associate 3D Curator

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Hear Acquisitions Librarian Patrick Coleman on MPR!

Posted byLori Williamson on 10 Jan 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

If you missed Patrick Coleman’s appearance on All Things Considered with Dan Olson, here’s the link to the story featuring many treasures of the Collection. Enjoy!


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Dan Murphy’s Les Paul Goldtop Guitar

Posted byLori Williamson on 20 Nov 2013 | Tagged as: What's New

“It was really a home spun band with very humble beginnings”.  That’s how former Soul Asylum lead guitarist Dan Murphy described his Minneapolis-based band, which rose to superstardom in 1992 with their hit single “Runaway Train”.  A native of Duluth, Murphy co-founded the group in 1981 with Karl Mueller and Dave Pirner as a trio under the name Loud Fast Rules, playing in garages, at parties, and in local clubs including First Avenue.  With the addition of Pat Morley on drums, the band changed its name to Soul Asylum in 1984 and began recording albums for the independent record label Twin/Tone Records. Grant Young replaced Morley on drums shortly after their debut album, Say What you Will, and for the next nine years the band played hundreds of concerts across the United States and Europe, building a following of fans and climbing the college radio charts.  After releasing a string of tepidly-received albums under the A&M label, the band signed with Columbia Records in 1992 and released Grave Dancers Union to critical and popular acclaim. The album’s success catapulted Soul Asylum to international celebrity and assured their reputation for the next twenty years as one of the world’s most renowned independent rock bands.

Purchased in the mid 1980’s at Benedict’s Music Store in Minneapolis, Murphy used this Gibson Les Paul guitar on every Soul Asylum album, starting with 1988’s Hang Time, until his departure from the band in 2012.  Murphy also logged hundreds of performances on the guitar as a member of Soul Asylum and the supergroup Golden Smog, including appearances at President Bill Clinton’s first inaugural ball, the MTV Music Awards, “Saturday Night Live”, the “David Letterman Show”, and the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno”.  The guitar joins the Society’s extensive holdings of artifacts and manuscript materials which document both the storied legacy of Soul Asylum and Dan Murphy’s celebrated achievements as a Minnesota musician.

Adam Scher, Senior Curator

Photo by Daniel Schwen.

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New Library Exhibit – Dry Times: Temperance, Prohibition, and Gangsters in Minnesota, 1900 – 1933

Posted byLori Williamson on 15 Oct 2013 | Tagged as: What's New

In anticipation of the opening November 9 of American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, we put together some material in the Library Lobby to showcase the Minnesota angle and whet visitors’ appetite for more!

Minnesota played a major role in Prohibition, the banning of alcohol in the United States from 1920 – 1933 made possible by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.  The Temperance Movement (supporters of making liquor illegal) had been active here since the 1880s, but it was the National Prohibition Act (also known as the Volstead Act) championed by Minnesota Congressman Andrew Volstead that made the Amendment reality.

Liquor, of course, did not go away, just underground. A brisk illegal trade in alcohol could be found nationwide, but it was to Saint Paul the gangsters would come to either vacation or “let things cool off.” An arrangement with the Saint Paul Police made the city a haven for criminals. As long as bribes were paid and crime was not committed in the city, Saint Paul Police agreed to look the other way. While this made for some interesting visitors, this arrangement did not last long.

Come take a look at these amazing pieces from that time, showing all sides in the great national debate that came to a largely joyous end in 1933.

This exhibit is open the same hours as the Library.

Learn More:

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