Each of the letters, photos, tools, recordings, clippings, including that protest placard, has a life and a story. Those stories are shared because of the talent and vision of archivists who understand and convey the context that instills meaning. So perhaps the most meaningful way to commemorate National Archives Month 2016 is to highlight events that unlock the digital treasures.
This is a totally random sample, intended to give a sense of the diversity, the depth, and the unique character of just a few of the hundreds of archives in this region’s historical societies, corporations, colleges, religious institutions and special libraries.
These programs shine the light on what’s on those shelves and in those files. Some samples:
- The archives of the St Paul Cathedral, including images tracing the 175 years of parish history beginning with the early French Canadian settlers who helped build their first chapel, are on exhibit now at the Cathedral. Visitors will find photos from the Cathedral School, which operated as the parish school from 1851 to 1977. Exhibits are on display on the lower level of the Cathedral through December 31. Free and open. cathedralsaintpaul.org or 651 228 1766.
- Stories of Minnesotans’ role in the Civil Rights Movement a half century ago are told through the Selma 70 Exhibition now on display at the Ramsey County Exhibit Gallery in the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul. The narrative is told through historical photos, documents and stories from the original Freedom March. Free and open through January 30. (http://www.rchs.com/event/selma-70-exhibitions/)
- “Mansion in Mourning” is the intriguing title of the current exhibit at the American Swedish Institute. The exhibit includes personal memorial hair jewelry and wreaths to widow’s weeds, death masks, painting, books and other forms of memento mori. The exhibit emphasizes the objects, clothing, relics, and icons that draw connections between the living and the departed. ((http://www.asimn.org/exhibitions-collections/exhibitions/mansion-mourning)
- As we flounder in the politics of the season, the ongoing exhibit at the James J. Hill House will conjure reflections on the role of Minnesotan Eugene McCarthy and the 1968 Presidential Election. The exhibit includes campaign literature, editorial cartoons, photographs and materials from his personal papers. It’s open Saturday, October 15, through January 22, 1917, at the James J. Hill House, 240 Summit Avenue, St. Paul. http://www.mnhs.org/event/2106
- Friends of the Libraries, University of Minnesota (http://www.continuum.umn.edu/friends/#.V_kzs1edeJW) is sponsoring the First Fridays Series during and post-National Archives Month – the series boasts the delightful title, “Down the Archival Rabbit Hole…and what we found there.”
- U of M Libraries will also sponsor a program on “Telling Queer History” on Sunday, October 9, 2:00 -4:00 p.m. at the Elmer L. Andersen Library, Room 120. One of the speakers is Andrea Jenkins who leads the U of M Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies’ Transgender Oral History Project.
- The Magrath Library on the U of M St. Paul Campus is home to the Doris S. Kirschner Cookbook Collection. Beth Dooley and J. Ryan Stradal will share the story of the collection in a presentation entitled “Farm Fields, Gardens, Kitchens, and Libraries of the Great Midwest.” This is the Third Kirschner Lecture sponsored by the Friends of the U of M Libraries. It’s Thursday, December 1, 7:00 p.m. in the Cowles Auditorium, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs on the West Bank. Free and open, reservation requested to the Friends of the U of M Libraries.’
Like politics, most history is local. Archives can be most meaningful when they shape the world from the local perspective. Fortunately, archivists, working with local historians, families, genealogists, artists, writers and storytellers, keep the stories alive.
Local history centers preserve the records; they also create exhibits and delightful programs that celebrate the unique story or special feature of the town, county, region, industry or oddity (consider the famed Ball of Twine in Darwin.) To learn more about local history organizations check out MHS local history services. http://www.mnhs.org/localhistory/mho/
There are at least 10,000 reasons and ways to put a Minnesota spin on National Archives Month!