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Minnesota Renaissance Fair Photographs

Posted byLori Williamson on 19 Aug 2016 | Tagged as: Our Favorite Things

Huzzah! ‘Tis once again time for the greatest summer festival Minnesota has to offer! (Yeah, that’s right, I said it. The Greatest.)

RF 1.jpg

A group performs traditional dances on a stage with musicians, 1972.

This year the Minnesota Renaissance Festival celebrates its 46th season! Minnesota’s is the second oldest Renaissance fair in the United States, and has one of the highest attendance rates. Started in 1971, the Festival began in a twenty-two acre field in Jonathan, Minnesota, and consisted of little more than tents, stages and straw bales.

Renaissance festivals are outdoor events where performers recreate historical settings and costumes and entertain visitors with music, shows, food, and more. The Minnesota Renaissance Festival is set in 16th Century England, with the addition of playful fairies, elves and mermaids. Visitors can shop for a variety handcrafted treasures and witness the exciting jousting tournaments throughout the day. It’s no wonder this beloved event has grown to such a phenomenon!

The Minnesota Historical Society houses a collection of photographs taken in the second year of the Festival at the Jonathan location.

Vendor stands and tents next to open field, 1972.

Members of the Lebhaft Medieval Ensemble performing, 1972

Members of the Lebhaft Medieval Ensemble performing, 1972

Small child in costume climbing onto a stage, 1972

Small child in costume climbing onto a stage, 1972

Anyone who has been to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival can agree that while the landscape in these photos may be quite different from the grand, colorful structures now found in Shakopee, the enjoyment of the attendees and excitement of the performers remains the same (as well as balloon fencing!!).

Fencing booth worker helping a child into gear, 1972

The Renaissance Festival is open weekends starting August 20 through October 2. I hope to see you there!

Stephanie Olson
Collections Assistant

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Remembering “The Dome”

Posted byLori Williamson on 22 Jul 2016 | Tagged as: Our Favorite Things

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, 501 Chicago Avenue, Minneapolis, 1982.

With US Bank Stadium opening its doors for a public open house July 23-24 we reflect on its predecessor, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Construction began December 20, 1979 but the Dome, just like most publicly funded stadiums, faced opposition. A statewide coalition known as Minnesotans Against the Downtown Dome (MADD — the clever acronym was not associated with Mothers Against Drunk Driving until after that organization was founded in 1980) opposed to legislation that would enable the construction of a domed stadium. In the late 1970s buttons like this were distributed by MADD:

Anti-Metrodome Button <1994.95.20>

In the end voters approved funding and brought professional sports back to Minneapolis in 1982, more than twenty years after the last professional team (the Minneapolis Lakers) left the city. For over thirty years the Metrodome served its purpose in its utilitarian way, though like most multipurpose stadiums the Dome was not particularly ideal for baseball, football, or hearing anything. And occasionally the roof deflated.

The 1980s were a rough decade for the Dome, which became a bowl four times due to extreme weather conditions that deflated or created tears in the 10 acres of roof fabric. This Teflon and fiberglass fabric sample is from the roof that suffered a catastrophic collapse in December 2010 and was completely replaced:

Metrodome roof sample <2014.43.3>

In spite of its problems, the Metrodome was the only venue to host an All-Star Game (1985), two World Series (1987 & 1991), a Super Bowl (1992), a NFC Championship (1998-99), and two Final Fours (1992 & 2001). With more recent trends back toward single sport venues, it is unlikely that the Dome’s record will be challenged anytime soon. Here are a few souvenirs from some notable events:

1985 All-Star Game bumper sticker <1991.267.1>

1989 Minnesota Timberwolves ticket <1991.139.187>

1992 NCAA Final Four button

1992 Super Bowl XXVI ticket <1993.139.3>

When the Dome closed in 2013 the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) generously donated a selection of items used at the stadium to the Minnesota Historical Society, including a pair of seats. But seats at the Dome were mounted vertically to cement and shared armrests. In order to have a more complete packages, and because the Dome was still operating when MSFA made the initial donation, the seats acquired by the Society are assembled from used spare seat parts. Our Senior Objects Conservator, Tom Braun, created the wooden mount that makes for easy and safe display and handling by museum staff.

Pair of Metrodome row seats <2013.159.1>

Be sure to see the Metrodome seats alongside a folding chair from Metropolitan Stadium and a brand new pair of seats borrowed from US Bank Stadium during the upcoming exhibit “Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” on view September 24, 2016 – January 15, 2017 at the Minnesota History Center. And don’t miss the History Flirt event on October 4, 2016, when we’ll be hosting a live “Puppy Bowl”!

–Sondra Reierson, Associate Curator, 3D Objects

Learn more:

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History Hounds!

Posted byLori Williamson on 23 Mar 2016 | Tagged as: Our Favorite Things

Today, March 23, is National Puppy Day! With this is mind, I wanted to take a moment to share some of the fantastic dogs photographs collected by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Two dogs posed on bench, circa 1925.

Dog with pipe, circa 1875.

Mandy's performing Dachshunds, circa 1945.

Duke on the treadmill of a dog-powered cream separator, circa 1940.

Dog protesting "Dogs Not Permitted" sign at Lake Calhoun beach, 1937.

Young girls giving her dog a ride on a horse, circa 1900.

Two boys and their dog on a sail sled, circa 1930.

Gardner Reynolds and dog, Juno, circa 1895.

Thanks for looking! You can find more dog photographs by searching Collections Online!

Stephanie Olson
Collections Assistant

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Restoration of the Minnesota State Capitol

Posted byLori Williamson on 15 May 2015 | Tagged as: Our Favorite Things


We, as the Collections Department, clearly love the Collections that tell the story of Minnesota and its people. But we also love field trips, especially those to historic sites. Many of us happen to be civics or architectural nerds (or both), so we were very excited and grateful for the opportunity to visit the Minnesota State Captiol during its current major (and greatly needed) renovation. We had so much fun – thank you to Sondra Reierson for the photos; to the Site; manager Brian Pease; and the construction company for making this possible!

Click any image to enlarge.

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Saint Paul Winter Carnival Royalty, 1978

Posted byLori Williamson on 23 Jan 2015 | Tagged as: Our Favorite Things

On a January evening in 1978, young women dressed all in white began arriving at the St. Paul Municipal Auditorium. They were the Royal Princesses of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, all hoping to be crowned Queen of the Snows. The gilded, cavernous Auditorium had been transformed into the Great Hall of Jupiter for the coronation ceremony. King Boreas had been crowned and on this night a Queen would be chosen to represent the City in the coming year.

Auditorium, St. Paul, before the addition. Ca. 1922

St. Paul Winter Carnival ceremonies at auditorium, St. Paul. Ca. 1948

Donaldson's Golden Rule, Seventh and Robert, St. Paul. Ca. 1966

Donaldson's Golden Rule, Seventh and Robert, St. Paul. Ca. 1966

The Princesses had been preparing for months. In the fall of the previous year, Donaldson’s Department Store began an internal selection process for for their own store-sponsored representative. As many as nine single women, aged 18 to 25, were nominated internally and judged on personality, poise, maturity, and walk. By late Fall, Donaldson’s had selected their candidate.

Marlene Richter had taken a position at Donaldson’s a few years earlier and joined in the store’s 1978 Winter Carnival competition in order to expand her social horizons. A University of Minnesota chemical engineering student, Marlene hoped that participating in the Winter Carnival competition would create opportunities to meet new people, outside of the the men surrounding her at school.

Saint Paul Winter Carnival Queen of the Snows coronation gown. Ca. 1978

Once she was selected as Donaldson’s Winter Carnival candidate, Marlene began preparing with the manager of the women’s wear department. Candidates and sponsors were responsible for providing a formal white coronation gown. The hunt for the perfect gown took the two women to a bridal shop in Rosedale Mall, where they found a two piece formal dress complete with lace and marabou feather trim that fit Marlene beautifully, straight off the rack.

Saint Paul Winter Carnival King Boreas uniform. Ca. 1978

On coronation night, Marlene and the other candidates stood under the hot lights of the Auditorium stage, nervous and excited. When the Grand Chamberlain bowed before Marlene, it took a moment for her to realize the choice was made; she would be Queen of the Snows. King Boreas (Dan Dolan), in his own imposing red uniform complete with gold braid and white gloves, crowned the new queen. The rest of the evening passed in a blur of activity; from a reception at the Radisson hotel on Kellogg Boulevard and back to a women-only suite at the St. Paul Hotel, where the remaining princesses would be outfitted with matching gold gowns to differentiate between Queen and Princesses.

SPWC Royal Coronation at the St. Paul Auditorium, 1978. Courtesy of Marlene Killa

Queen of the Snows Marlene Richter, 1978. Courtesy of Marlene (Richter) Killa

The Royal party would appear at the annual parade and other events during Carnival in St. Paul, but their duties did not end there. As Snow Queen, Marlene made about 400 appearances throughout 1978, following the Carnival tradition of spreading St. Paul hospitality across the state and the nation. She was part of the last group of Carnival royalty to participate in the Rose Bowl Parade in California, on a float with Minneapolis Aquatennial royalty. She wore her coronation gown to many of these events, but wore at least eight other dresses throughout the year.

Marlene’s reign ended with the passing of her crown at the 1979 King Boreas coronation event. The Winter Carnival experience was all she had imagined and more. Donaldson’s sponsorship not only financed the wardrobe and other costs associated with Carnival, but enabled Marlene to travel extensively. Her social hopes were also realized; she created lasting friendships with the royal party and met Michael Killa, a member of the 1978 Royal Guard. Marlene and Mike later married.

SPWC Royal Party, 1978. Courtesy of Marlene Killa. Michael Killa is 3rd from the right in the top row

After her time in Carnival, Marlene (Richter) Killa would go on to earn an MBA and spend twenty-two years as an engineer at Ecolab, a St. Paul-based multinational developer and manufacturer. For the past decade she and her husband Mike have worked together on their own construction company. Marlene and Mike took part in Saint Paul Winter Carnival activities for years following 1978: Marlene served as a judge for the 1980 Queen of the Snows competition and was active with the Former Queen’s Club for many years. Mike served as Captain of the Guard in 1986 and both were active with the Royal Party that year.

Sondra Reierson, Associate Curator, 3D Objects

See more:

  • Saint Paul Winter Carnival guide to related MNHS collections, including photographs and artifacts.
  • St. Paul Auditorium photographs. The Auditorium was razed in 1982; Ordway Theater was partially constructed on the original site of the Auditorium, beside the Roy Wilkins Auditorium.
  • In 1961 Donaldson’s, a Minneapolis company, merged with the Golden Rule department store in St. Paul and changed the store’s name to Donaldson’s a few years later. The St. Paul location remained in the Golden Rule building until 1980, when it moved to the Town Square complex. The original building still stands at 85 7th Place East, St. Paul.
  • Ecolab, Inc. records

Artifacts referenced:

  • Saint Paul Winter Carnival Queen of the Snows coronation gown <2014.162.1.A,B> Two piece white formal gown worn by Marlene (Richter) Killa as the 1978 Saint Paul Winter Carnival Queen of the Snows.
  • Saint Paul Winter Carnival King Boreas uniform <1988.396. and 1998.413.> Jacket, pants, hat, gloves and scepter used by Daniel F. Dolan as the 1978 Saint Paul Winter Carnival King Boreas.
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Points for Creativity

Posted byLori Williamson on 09 Dec 2014 | Tagged as: Our Favorite Things


How do you encourage people to go see your new production? Easy! Give them cool swag. But when posters and key chains no longer grab people’s attention, marketing offices need to get creative.

This emery board was created in 1963 to promote the Alfred Hitchcock film, The Birds, at the Anoka Theater in Minnesota. With its clever, though slightly nefarious slogan, “File Your Nails – Don’t Bite Them, THE BIRDS is coming”, the nail file successfully suggests the frightening nature of the film, (you will never look at birds the same way), while still giving people something they will actually use and look at frequently.

Slightly less useful, though still creative, is this cell phone holder promoting the 2009 film New In Town. In the movie a woman moves from Miami, Florida to New Ulm, Minnesota and realizes it’s not so bad. Made of red rubber foam, the shoe has the movie’s title written across the vamp, so you read it every time you grab your phone. Perhaps a snow boot would have better evoked the spirit of Minnesota, but it probably wouldn’t hold a cell phone.

Finally, we have a top hat, used as part of the promotional package for the 1995 premier of Julie Andrews’ musical, Victor/Victoria at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. A ribbon above the brim reads “Victor/Victoria” and the hat held dried roses, a plastic vase, a chocolate bar, and more. However, because of the direction of the text it cannot actually be worn as a hat, (well, it could, but everyone would be craning their necks trying to read upside-down). So instead, it’s a hat that promotes the musical from your dresser. It’s probably a perfect storage space for your nail file and cell phone holder.

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Consulting the Oracle

Posted byLori Williamson on 24 Oct 2014 | Tagged as: Our Favorite Things


I do not consider myself a person who scares easily. That being said, when I came across a Ouija board and planchette in the storage space at the Minnesota History Center, under the watchful glass eyes of a Great Horned Owl and around the corner from the collection of death masks, it gave me pause.

The Ouija board is one of the most iconic board games in America. The first patented game was created by the Kennard Novelty Company of Baltimore, Maryland, in 1891 in response to a growing fascination with spiritualism and the paranormal. To play, participants place their fingertips on the planchette and watch as messages are spelled out on the board, allegedly by the influence of spirits.

During most of the 20th Century the Ouija board was little more than an intriguing novelty toy, frequently played at parties and gatherings across the country. The game was mass produced in various styles, such as this board created by Parker Brothers, Inc., circa 1967. While there were certainly people who took it more seriously than others, the game was generally considered harmless fun.

That changed with the release of horror movies in the 1970’s and 80’s that portrayed Ouija boards at instruments of evil spirits and demons, such as The Exorcist in 1973 (this is also the year the board was donated to the Minnesota Historical Society). People began to view the game as frightening, while religious groups across the country condemned it as in tool of the devil, a practice that has continued even into the 21st Century.

These days, Ouija boards remain popular everywhere from slumber parties to pop culture, and there are all sorts of stories floating around about chilling experiences and revelations from using them. And even though scientists have established that the messages are created by the unconscious movements of the participants and not spiritual interference, the mysterious nature of the Ouija board lives on.

Seeing the board in the museum certainly makes me wonder…what stories would it tell?


Stephanie Olson
Collections Assistant

Learn more about the history and science of the Ouija board in the Smithsonian Magazine.

Follow-up: this was caught happening this morning in Collections storage! Happy Halloween everyone!

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New Wonderful World of Menus Display!

Posted byLori Williamson on 06 Oct 2014 | Tagged as: Our Favorite Things

Come to the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota  Historical Society during regular library hours to see the new display on Minnesota Menus!

It is the time of year when people’s thoughts turn to food, and we have a fabulous collection here documenting foodways over time. In this exhibit we chose to focus on menus from the railroads; banquets; hotels; and restaurants. It is fascinating to see what people ate and how much it cost; the graphic design component of many is exceptional as well.

While the menu collection is available for research any time, this is a rare opportunity to see together many of the items so expertly discussed in Debbie Miller’s article in this quarter’s Minnesota History magazine. Come see the menus for yourself, and then purchase your copy of the magazine in the Museum Stores to learn more!

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1919 Fire Truck at MN State Fair

Posted byLori Williamson on 21 Aug 2014 | Tagged as: Our Favorite Things


Every year we lend our 1919 Ford Model T Fire Truck to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the MN State Fair Parade.  It is one of a very few vehicles that we keep maintained in running condition.  This one was the first unit used by the Minnesota Forest Service and will lead the parade on Friday this week (8/22/2014) for Fire Prevention Day.  It is a special year because Smokey Bear turns 70 this year.

Nicole Delfino Jansen, Central Registrar

To learn more about this piece visit Collections Online.

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Rhubarb Pie!

Posted byLori Williamson on 15 Jul 2014 | Tagged as: Our Favorite Things


Amy’s Baking Delights, from Ruttger’s Bay Lake resort near Deerwood, published sometime in the 1970s.

Amy Pleidrup Downing and her sister Bertha Pleidrup grew up on a farm near Verndale, west of Bay Lake. Bertha ran the Ruttger’s kitchen for much of the middle part of the 20th century. Amy, who came to work as the baker starting in 1945, was famous for her desserts and sweet treats.

Here’s her easy recipe for Rhubarb Pie.  You can make your own crust or use 2 from the grocery store.

Line pan (9-inch pie plate) with pie crust. Wash and dice rhubarb.
3 cups rhubarb
3 Tbsp minute tapioca
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
Mix well and pour into shell.  Top with a crust.  Bake at 375 degrees 45 minutes or until done.

Find the cookbook in the MNHS Library at TX765 .A49 1970z, along with oral history interviews with workers and family members at Ruttger’s Bay Lake resort in the Resort Oral History Project

Debbie Miller, Reference Librarian

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