Category Archives: Minneapolis History

Opening library archives – from the outside in

The concept of preserving history, collating full archives, making them as usable as possible so the public have access to them, I really feel that it allows the public an ability to engage with their own history. Sarah Harrison, journalist

For the past couple of weeks I have been exploring an endless profusion of photos, letters, yearbooks, and more photos – from the comforts of home!   I have actually been trying to learn enough about the new Digital Collections platform at Hennepin County Library so I could post an informed post for this blog.

Thinking I needed a bit more skill in searching the massive collection – and a better sense of the possibilities I might be missing — I made my way to Special Collections, 4th Floor at the Minneapolis Central Library, just to see if they might have a helpful cheat sheet….

Hearing my query, Librarian Bailey Diers demonstrated some of the tricks of the searching trade. Actually, she offered a brilliant tutorial for my colleague and me.

And yet, that’s not the topic of this blog.

What really came through to me is the premise of this new HCL Digital Collections! It’s akin to thinking of the library’s collection from the outside in.

First of all the content of the archives began with the lives of the people of this region – whether it’s high school yearbooks or photos of famous visitors or the local newspaper, it’s OUR story – a story that the library has forever valued, collected and preserved. Though the library has always played this role, it is seldom the main thrust of a major initiative.

Just as important, it is significant that the library is turning to the community to enhance the collection. The story of matching names of individuals in the Glanton collection is unique and telling. More on this aspect of the current project later.

Third, is the implicit fact that the entire focus of the digital project is on users who are not IN the library. We have long been able to search the catalog from home, but with the current project we have a deep dive into the essence of the recorded history of this community. The relationship between the library, specifically the library staff, is reoriented – and it is healthy for the system and for the user.

Digitization is not a new technique and remote access to library collections is not a revolutionary idea. What seems to me unique in this initiative is the focus on the stories of the local community – a way for us to see ourselves and our history at the core of the library’s role as a unique community resource.

Another intriguing aspect of the project is the story of the library’s turning to the community to augment the existing archives. More later on that project and searching tips in forthcoming posts.

 

 

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Commemorating National Archives Month-An Armchair approach

From tragic tales and dramatic feuds to stunning and unknown artwork, opening a box in an archive can lead researchers to stories they never expected.   U of M Continuum 

As we commemorate National Archives Month a single mental image, long seared in my memory, surfaces. It is the memory of Howard University librarian Dorothy Porter salvaging protest banners during the 1968 riots that rocked the Howard campus and much of Washington, DC. In that fleeting moment I learned the role and strength of an archivist committed to preservation of the record.

The possibilities for commemorating National Archives Month 2016 are limitless – and irresistible. This is the time when archivists dust off the memorabilia, open the doors, and welcome the public to come explore – physically or digitally – the records of their community, their heritage, or the nation.

Though it is a challenge to describe the complex research and technical expertise of the archivist we honor the professionalism with which they give life to inert records.

In the relatively recent past archivists and researchers have experienced seismic change in the very definition of archives. Archives have gone digital – and yet the digital record does not exist without the ground level work of archivists who spot and capture that which is to be preserved — the letter, the recording, the photo, the document, the video, the painting or diary – or the political banner.

The Minnesota Digital Archives (a forever work in progress) is the mother lode of the digital record of the state’s history – and a starting point for an overview of the digital scene. http://legacy.mnhs.org/featured-projects/153 The “premier project” of MDL is Minnesota Reflections (http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/). This is an easily browsed collection of digitized images, text, audio, film and other records shared by the state’s academic, religious, arts and other cultural institutions.

The Northern Lights and Insights series featuring Minnesota writers and books is part of this collection (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/northern-lights-insights-conversations-come-alive-as-videotaped-conversations-go-digital/)

Readers may be also be in the Minnesota Books and Authors Collection section of the MPR digital archives: (http://archive.mprnews.org/collections/minnesota-books-and-authors-collection)

Though these and a host of other digitized collections offer incredible access to long-buried research materials, I worry at times that, because so much is clickable, we may lose sight of the fact that archives have roots…

More about the month’s archival programs and exhibits in the next post.

Quatrefoil Library at 30! A movement deserves a library!

Some of us remember the beginnings of the Quatrefoil Library — from “back in the day” – before rainbow flags or enlightened legislation altered the lives of LGBTQ Minnesotans, and eventually of the nation.   With a wince I remember getting flack for planning a Metronet event at Quatrefoil three decades ago.

Most of all, I think of the founders, including Edward Swanson about whom I posted a couple of appreciative blogs when he died too soon in December 2010. If you don’t know – or want to be reminded of – the Quatrefoil narrative spend some quality time exploring the excellent Quatrefoil website (https://www.qlibrary.org) and reading/viewing the resources posted there.

This library community supported and celebrated the unique Quatrefoil Library long before the movement for equality was mainstream. We understood the importance of the archives and, equally, of the lending library that features a robust collection of reading materials by LGBT writers and about issues of interest to the LGBT community and to readers who just wanted to learn more about the lives of their family members, their neighbors, co-workers, and themselves. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/edward-swanson/

Some years ago the Quatrefoil Library moved to its present location on Lake Street. In April 2014 Andy Sturdevant wrote a great piece about the library in MinnPost . When I read that piece I resolved to visit and to better know and to think about the success of this bold enterprise. Unfortunately, I never did visit the “new” library, but I did re-read Andy’s post here: https://www.minnpost.com/stroll/2014/04/lgbt-history-lovingly-preserved-quatrefoil-library-lake-street .

The good news is that recognition of the 30th Anniversary fosters new ways to learn about, cheer and support the 21st Century Quatrefoil Library,

First, we can all visit the In & Out: 30 Years at Quatrefoil Library exhibit open through August 28 at the Hennepin History Museum, 2303 Third Avenue South in Minneapolis. Check the Museum website for hours, access and other details. (http://www.hennepinhistory.org/index.html)

A highlight of the exhibit is a special program set for this coming Sunday, July 31 when three long-term Quatrefoil volunteers will lead an informal discussion of the history of the Twin Cities LGBT community library. James Bacigalupo, Robert Frame and Kathy Robbins know the history, the successes and the bumps on the road to equality, including the resistance and acceptance of this community.

The discussion is 1:00-3:00 at the Hennepin History Museum. Cost is included with Museum admission ($5 adults, $3 seniors/students, free for HHM members and children under 6.)

Happy 30th birthday, Quatrefoil Library!

Northeast Minneapolis Celebrates Independence

NEWS RELEASE: April 1, 2016

By common agreement the residents of Northeast Minneapolis have officially seceded from the City of Minneapolis as of this date. The former Neighborhood has assumed independent status and adopted the less cumbersome name “Northeast”.

This decision is based on the fact that Northeast is 1) separated from Minneapolis by the Mighty Mississippi River, 2) renowned for its rich and diverse cultural heritage, and 3) politically and psychologically primed for independence.

Northeast residents have agreed to the following changes in policies, practices and priorities effective as of this date:

Purchase and rental agreements for Northeast newcomers shall include a requisite “What happens in Northeast stays in Northeast” clause.

Little Free Libraries in Northeast shall be complemented with Little Gluten Free Microbreweries to be allocated and sited in a competitive contest among qualifying residents.

The names of non-represented Presidents shall be applied to neighborhood alleys, beginning with the alley between Washington and Adams Street.

East-West streets (currently numbered) shall be renamed to recognize the non-native ethnic heritage of Northeast, moving West to East according to the year of the immigrant group’s arrival in the community.

The date of birth of each of the nation’s Presidents shall be celebrated (e.g. January 7shall be designated as Millard Fillmore Day. b. January 7, 1800). In the case that two or more Presidents share the same birthday (and thus same zodiac sign) the observance shall be held on the first Monday of the week.

A surcharge shall be charged for beer purchased by non-Northeasters. The surcharge shall be waived for potables brewed in Northeast.

Art-a-Whirl shall be expanded to a year-long event. Seasonal focus will be on snow sculpture with an annual Ice Brewery competition in January.

Volunteers shall construct a natural wall to complement the Mississippi as a dividing line between the cities. The wall shall be erected on the Minneapolis side of the Mississippi to ensure that residents of Northeast shall have full view and access from the East.  The wall shall be of sufficient height to shield Northeast residents from view of the unsightly US Bank stadium. Cost of the wall shall be borne by the Minnesota Vikings.

The Northeaster shall be officially recognized as the Newspaper of Record for all things Northeasterly.

The Edison High School Alumni Marching Band shall be the official musical organization of Northeast. The official motto of the magnificent marching musicians will be “We (heart) the EHSAMB”.

Eat My Words shall be the officially recognized hangout for Northeast bibliophiles.

Dziedzic Drive shall be upgraded and added to the National Highway System.

Northeasters shall celebrate Black Friday with a bike-a-thon to the former site of Apache Plaza with a pit stop at the architectural remnants of Walmart.

Snow days shall be declared only on the occasion that there is more than 18” of snow or the temperature drops below -60 degrees.  There shall be a half day of school declared the instant the temperature at 11:59 AM exceeds +70 degrees.

The Stinson Boulevard property maintained by the Stinson Conservancy shall be duly recognized and maintained as the gem of the Ground Rounds Scenic Byway System.

The official recreational sport shall be bocce ball.

The kolachky (spelling negotiable) shall be the official food of Northeasters.

The motto of Northeast shall be “If you love life, life will love you back.” (Arthur Rubinstein)

The nexus of Central Avenue and Hennepin shall be known in perpetuity as “Where Banks Used to Be (UTB)” and 519-523 Central Avenue Northeast will be permanently recognized as “Where Totinos UTB)”.

Pedal Pubs shall replace environmentally toxic bus transit on Central Avenue. Passengers will cover cost of transit with pedal power.

Northeast shall extend Sister City status to adjoining communities including St. Anthony Village, Columbia Heights and Minneapolis.

Northeast shall invite  the Polish government to share BFF status. A Polish consulate shall be established on the site of Nye’s Polonaise where a polka-and-piano themed monument shall be erected to designate the BFF relationship.

Viva Northeast!

 

Polanie Club archives tell stories of Polish women in Minnesota

A few years ago I was introduced to, intrigued by – and soon wrote about – the Polanie Club, a Northeast Minneapolis organization founded in 1927 by twelve women of Polish descent. (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/polanie-club/) I enjoyed learning about the ongoing work of the organization and have followed the organization ever since.

The stated mission of the Polanie Club was to preserve and broaden knowledge of Polish culture while encouraging local Polish residents to pursue higher education. The work of the women of the Polonai Club has been bold and enduring. Members of the Polanie Club have sponsored scholarships, published books of fiction and nonfiction and a cookbook of Polish recipes which turned out to be a successful fundraiser for the organization.

Thus I was concerned to learn recently that the Polanie Club will soon dissolve. The membership – and thus the energy of the organization – is waning.

The really good news is that the archives of the Polanie Club, an incredible treasure trove of local, ethnic and women’s history, will remain an accessible and curated resource for scholars and anyone who has an interest in the history and stories of Polish immigrants. The Polanie Club archives will become part of the Immigration History Research Center collection at the University of Minnesota Libraries.

As a complement to the IHRC archives, the Minneapolis History Collection will continue to curate the files of the Polanie Club. That collection includes information about programs from the 1930’s through the 1960’s as well as various clippings about activities, publications and news of the Club. These files supplement, or may on occasion duplicate, the U of M archival collection.

The official archives at the Immigration History Center, supplemented by the materials at the Minneapolis History Collection, will provide a robust history of this unique organization. Appreciation is due to the members and leaders of the Polanie Club who have preserved the record and who will now share their history for posterity.

Featuring Fun Food for the Mind at the Fair

The Snelling Avenue Bridge is re-opened – a good sign that the Great Minnesota Get Together must be nigh. As always, the state’s highways and by-ways are at the ready for action – in fact, they are already teeming with vendors, exhibitors, builders, chefs, entertainers, transit drivers and others converging on the Fairgrounds to do what needs to be done to ensure that all is in readiness for Thursday, August 27, when the gates open!

Liberal arts majors and their progeny may want to take note of some Fair favorites that are long on bargain, short on deep fried edibles.

Representatives of the Minnesota Historical Society are a visible and audible presence all week. They’re performing at the Schilling Amphitheater with their popular “History-on-a-Schtick!” vaudeville show. Or orient yourself to the fairgrounds with a cell phone walking tour around the grounds. Listen to fascinating stories of Minnesota State Fair history while you learn about the buildings and the stories those walls can tell. MHS also sponsors a booth in the Education Building where visitors can learn about the organization’s resources, the statewide network and outreach activities.

Wednesday, September 2, is library day at the Fair. The first treat of “Read&Ride Day” comes at the gate when public library cardholders will get discounted admission. From 9:00-5:00 Carousel Park will be abuzz with activities for every age, including yoyo tricks, magic, hypnotism, old-time and bluegrass music. For young readers and reader wanabes there are muscle and brain-building activities, picture books, a scavenger hunt, bookmarks and more. Visitors who show their library card will get a deck of “Get Carded: Make your next stop the library” playing cards.

Rain Taxi will join the September 2 reading bonanza with a full schedule of events, starting at 9:00 with the chance to write a short “good morning poem” using impromptu exercises with poet John Colburn. At 10:30 Moorhead teacher Kevin Carollo will craft cardboard animals, while poet Paula Cisewski will write an on-the-spot poem based on the requester’s Tarot cards.

Also from Rain Taxi, from 1:00-2:00 Minnesota hip-hop writer and performer Dessa will sign copies of her Rain Taxi chapbook, A Pound of Steam. From 2:00–3:30 poet-troubadour Brian Laidlaw will lead a drop-in songwriting workshop. And from 3:30-5:00 graphic novelist and comics professor Ursula Murray Husted will create a gigantic collaborative comic – fun for all ages.

** Public Library Day is funded by the Minnesota Legacy Fund.

P.S. Just as I polished off this post the latest news from Minitex popped up – featuring a tempting smorgasbord of top ten fun things to do at the Fair. https://news.minitex.umn.edu/news/library-news/top-10-things-do-state-fair-read-ride-day.  Click and learn!

 

Remembering Zella Shannon – Library leader, visionary force

Though there was only one Zella Shannon, friends and professional colleagues recall wonderfully different facets of her legacy.  Known always as “Zella”, never “Ms Shannon,”  she is best known to many as a world-class librarian and library administrator.  Zella Shannon died at her retirement  home in Arizona on Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

The stories of Zella’s vision and leadership abound:

Retired State Librarian Bill Asp reflects on the role that Zella played in crafting what is now the taken-for-granted policy that an individual may use his or her public library card to check out items from any public library throughout the state – a truly revolutionary idea “back in the day.” Asp recalls that, during the late 60’s and early 70’s the push for reciprocal borrowing privileges, initiated among just three neighbor regions, had spread to the rest of the state’s regions – with the exception of the metro area. Asp appointed a task force to study statewide borrowing – Zella Shannon, representing the Minneapolis Public Library, served on that task force.  Asp writes, “Zella approached the task as a problem solver. She acknowledged that there would be problems and risks, but also that there would benefits. Zella was always positive. She was determined to find ways to make a statewide reciprocal borrowing compact work. Her support in bringing Minneapolis Public Library on board influenced other metropolitan public libraries and they all agreed to participate in the statewide compact.”

Similarly, many in the Minneapolis business community are likely unaware that it was Zella who imagined – then implemented – INFORM, the fee-based information service for business and industry crafted by Minneapolis Public Library in collaboration with the University of Minnesota and other metropolitan libraries. Long before the dawn of the Digital Age  Zella, always the visionary, posited that ready access to relevant and high quality information was of essential economic value. Thus, corporations would be willing to pay to enjoy ready access to the resources of the public library – the information itself and, even more, the high level skills of the library’s information professionals. (“Public Library Service to the Corporate Community, Special Libraries, 65 (January 1974).

One of my favorite Zella stories recounts her encounter with law enforcement agents who, in their quest for enemy agents or other un-American activities, demanded to see the circulation records of Minneapolis Public Library.   Zella, in step with librarians throughout the country, put a stop to that, declaring that “we’re not obstructionist of justice, but from our point of view, what someone reads in the library is private and sacred.”

In retirement, Zella pressed on to effect change. Though she ran with gusto and commitment to the principles of the DFL Zella was defeated in her run for a seat representing in the Minnesota Legislature.

Her beloved husband of many years, Floyd, died several years ago. To Zella’s regret, they had no children. Throughout her life, until her health and eyesight limited her mobility, Zella remained active in community and library activities as a member of Central Lutheran Church, as a member and one-time chapter president of Special Libraries Association, member of the Citizens League, the Metropolitan Senior Federation, and other DFL and library-associated activities. For the past couple of years she has lived in a nursing home in Arizona to be near family, always keeping in touch with personal, political and professional colleagues back in the Twin Cities.

The legacy of Zella Shannon, a committed, determined visionary, will live on in the library and political community of the city, the region and the state. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 1, 11:00 AM at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis where she once – or perhaps more than once – served as a Trustee