Clicking on the Web: Unique exhibit at history center

Minnesota residents can be very proud of their heritage and especially proud of how it is preserved by the Minnesota Historical Society and exhibited at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.

Howard Lestrud
Howard Lestrud

The Minnesota History Center is one of my favorite Minnesota learning centers.

I have always been a history buff and know the value of keeping archives since I have been active in the newspaper business for a half century.

In my years in journalism and newspapering, I have had to make sure that copies of my newspaper were sent to the Minnesota Historical Society for preservation.

I remember Dick Sherman, former owner of the ECM Post Review and Lakeville newspaper, saying: “I actually held an original copy of the 1875 edition of the Rush City Post.”

It is comforting to know that most Minnesota newspapers are archived with the Minnesota Historical Society, either as hard copies, on microfilm or digitally. Now, of course, much of what we publish online is archived digitally.

I have been a frequent visitor to the Minnesota History Center and have even accompanied my grandchildren on school field trips to the history center.

I remember being in my oldest granddaughter Kaley’s learning classroom at the history center and being able to share some of my experiences of growing up on a small dairy farm in southern Minnesota.

I felt like I was an expert when I talked about actually making grain shocks and helping out with our neighborhood threshing bees.

Grain harvests are a major part of the Grainland exhibit at the history center. It has been an extremely popular exhibit, especially with younger students.

Grainland is now being attached to a new exhibit that will represent more than 14,000 square feet to become the biggest Minnesota history exhibit ever.

The new exhibit is called “Then Now Wow.” It officially opens Friday, Nov. 23. The Minnesota History Center is located at 345 Kellogg Blvd. W in St. Paul.

Thanks to two outstanding Minnesota History Center marketing and communications specialists, Julianna Olsen and Jessica Kohen, I am able to share a preview of the “Then Now Wow” exhibit.

Here’s part of a press release sent by Julianna and Jessica:

From past to present, many “Wow!” moments have shaped this great state. Visitors to “Then Now Wow,” opening Nov. 23, 2012 at the Minnesota History Center, will explore Minnesota history through the prairies, forests and cities, along the way meeting the people who have made their homes here.

With more than 14,000 square feet of gallery space, “Then Now Wow,” is the largest exhibit ever created by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Then Now Wow” is designed especially for children.

The hands-on, interactive exhibit will use a wide range of story-driven features to explore immigration, transportation, family life, natural environments and Minnesota industries like fur trade, mining and agriculture.

Visitors will be able to trace the journey of wheat and corn by climbing into a grain elevator and sliding through the chutes; hop aboard a Soo Line boxcar and “tour” southwest Minnesota with original music by Charlie Parr; visit an 1870s pioneer family’s sod house; step inside a modern tipi and learn Dakota history and culture from poet/artist Bobby Wilson; “travel” on a Twin Cities streetcar to hear and see stories as different eras and places pass by; stand at the marker of the headwaters of the Mississippi; descend into an Iron Range mine and dynamite for ore; and barter for goods inside a fur post.

In addition, there will be programming space where History Players will perform and hands-on history programs and museum theater are presented.

“We are very excited to launch an exhibit that delves into Minnesota’s past and present in such a unique and active way,” said Stephen Elliott, Minnesota Historical Society director and chief executive officer.

“This is the exhibit on Minnesota history and should be a destination for all children and their families.”

The visual look of the exhibit combines “then” and “now” imagery in a number of unique ways.

Entire walls will feature modern photography of the Minnesota landscape, carpeting will mimic the Mississippi River in color and pattern and large scale Eames-style cards will feature bold images and historical content.

In fall 2013, the Minnesota History Center will launch an innovative new mobile application for “Then Now Wow” called “History In Our Hands.”

The application will be used by students visiting the exhibit on field trips.

Opening weekend, Nov. 23 and 24

The exhibit opens with much fanfare with a two-day family program.

For the price of admission, visitors of all ages can take in live performances by Charlie Parr, photo ops with Paul Bunyan, dancing, storytelling, trivia and lots of demonstrations and hands-on crafts.

Exhibit and program support

“Then Now Wow,” is funded in part by the Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund (ACHF) through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008.

The Minnesota Legislature appropriated $2,500,000 in ACHF funds to the Minnesota Historical Society “for an exhibit on the regional, local, and cultural diversity of Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage,” Laws of Minnesota, 2009, Chapter 172, Article 4, Section 2(e).

Major support is also being provided by the 3M Foundation, the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation and the Katherine B. Andersen Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation with additional support from the BNSF Foundation, Rosemary and David Good Family Foundation, Grotto Foundation, Hardenbergh Foundation, the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and the Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation.

Exhibit gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays (admission is free on Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m.), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Auxiliary aids and services are available with advance notice. For more information, call 651-259-3000 or 1-800-657-3773.

Admission to “Then, Now, Wow” is included with regular History Center admission of $11 for adults, $9 for seniors and college students, $6 for children ages 6 to 17; free for children age five and under and Minnesota Historical Society members.

The Minnesota History Center holds the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Editor’s note: Howard Lestrud is ECM online managing editor.