Tag Archives: James K. Hosmer Library

Lifelong Learning Thrives on Digital Digging

After a work life ruled by a cluttered desk calendar I’ve shed blind allegiance to a schedule. Evolving technology has only reinforced my disinclination to commit to the calendar or clock. This somehow justifies my reluctance to register for classes, concert series, monthly meetings, haircuts and most especially medical appointments.

The drive for independent, affordable learning is reinforced by the inability to pay for OLLI or college credits, health club membership or store-bought books. I find that learning thrives when sparked by the freedom to carpe diem and that an active life of the mind is best measured not by the learner’s ability to pay but by his or her thirst for knowledge

Thinking and writing about Older Americans Month which starts today (May 1) sparks thoughts about the freedom that seniors have to explore the borders of knowledge. I originally categorized this independent path as “random acts of learning” – till I compulsively googled the phrase and learned that there’s a blog thus named….A little learning can be a deflating thing….

Still, “Poking Around with Mary” fairly well describes my thrifty and rigor-free methodology. “Poking Around” is the term my friend would use to describe my learning style — how I would hop off the bus to check out a neighborhood or drop in at an outdoor concert or start up a conversation with a stranger while we stood in line for a common purpose, or pursue a person, place or idea on the web.   That, she said, was “poking around” and the blog could simply reflect the “pokes.”

Writing for the blog frequently inspires me to poke a little deeper. Now, when I hear of or see something of interest – a display, an event, a park, a coffee shop, a reading space, a specialty shop, a book – I want to learn more – and to share what I’ve learned. Blogs are great for ad hoc poking around, especially when fueled by a compulsion to share….

Since most of my learning is random it’s a challenge to list, much less categorize, the options. Some random thoughts:

  • My favorite poke is probably bookstores, especially used bookstores, where it’s all wonderfully random – authors, subjects, eras, format, language. I tell myself I can identify with all those writers, then internalize their ideas and literary style through osmosis. In fact, it’s the bibliophiles who tend these bookstores that truly inspire me to hang out and learn. Several blog posts reflect this love of bookstores – more to follow.
  • Similarly, many libraries are good, some are great. Librarians are often genetically disposed to share the quest for knowledge. Libraries of all types – public, college, even corporate, church, ethnic and other special libraries, are interconnected in functional networks that facilitate access through any portal – physical or digital. For most learners, the public library is the best port of entry and the most convenient way to explore the learning opportunities, ranging from public programs to home delivery. MNLink https://www.mnlinkgateway.org/zportal/zengine?VDXaction=ZSearchSimple offers a handy gateway to the endless possibilities. Still, especially with libraries, it’s often best to shop locally.
  • Those who work in great libraries are fortunate and indispensable fellow travelers on the path to learning, James K. Hosmer Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library (http://www.hclib.org/specialcollections\ is unchallenged as my favorite because of the incredible collection, stellar service, and the ambient environment that inspires serious research. Check the website – hours are severely limited.
  • The archives at the University of Minnesota are beyond wonderful. Exploring the Archives blog http://www.continuum.umn.edu/primary-sourcery/#.VyShhUtEB4M is both random and revealing of unimagined – yet essential – resources.   And if you’ve been wondering about what’s planned for the Bell Museum Library check https://www.bellmuseum.umn.edu
  • Libraries and librarians are inclined to listen to the needs of learners who have physical challenges to reading or to poking around the collections; seniors sometimes fail to realize how many learning options are accessible at or through their local library. In fact there are statewide and national networks set up to expand options beyond the local collection. One of several good starting points can be found here: http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/StuSuc/Lib/MBTBL/AudioBks/index.html
  • For a thorough and timely guide to resources there is no more comprehensive resource than that prepared by staff of the Legislative Reference Library. http://www.leg.state.mn.us/LRL/LINKS/links?links=disabled
  • You’ve probably visited the Minnesota History Center, but have you checked out the library? (http://sites.mnhs.org/library/) Though it’s accessible virtually the setting inspires the will to know more. I am always in awe of the serious learning in progress as scholars, genealogists, History Day students, journalists and PhD hopefuls plumb the State’s historic record. [I find it’s best to refresh with coffee and a muffin at Café Minnesota and/or a stop at one of the irresistible museum shops.
  • Though I have made pit stops at most state agency libraries that collaborate through the Capitol Area Library Consortium I know for certain that all constantly evolve and grow, add resources and programs, and create a unique corporate culture. The great news is that searcher can take a virtual tour with just one click of the CALCO directory. http://mn.gov/library/directory.pdf) A quick tour underscores Governor Perpich’s vision of the “brainpower state”, built on a firm foundation of accessible information services and top-notch professionals who build and mine the power of the resources accessible through this network of libraries and librarians.
  • Over time Pokings have taken me and readers to unique library settings. One of my former Northeast neighborhood haunts, the Polish American Cultural Institute of Minnesota (PACIM http://pacim.org) has found new digs and new life on the banks of the Mississippi.  The original blog post is woefully dated so check out the new profile and site to learn the latest – and check the online catalog to learn more about the library collection.
  • Though I haven’t visited yet I’m impressed with the collection, the programming and the mission of the East Side Freedom Library. The very special library fosters ideas and action in the former Arlington Hills branch of the St. Paul Public Library. Again, the library features a unique collection and a robust public programming agenda. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/east-side-freedom-library-gives-new-life-to-carnegie-library-st-paul-neighborhood/

One goal of taking this approach on the first day of Older Americans Month is to ease the way into a longer range goal – to demonstrate in tangible and useful ways far exceed most newbies expectation – it just depends on the keeper of the keys to envisions worlds far beyond shopping, paying bills, FB and email.   Armchair learning is within ready reach of any keeper of the keys for whom the goal is to learn.

Life experience tells me that everyone wants to know more about something – it might be presidential politics or polo, violin making or veterans, Iron Range history or hieroglyphics, football or food safety, car repair or climate change, Russian literature or road construction, immigration or isotopes, antiquities or animal protection…

The pitch today is “there’s an app for that” – in my mind, “there’s an opp for that” – an opportunity to enrich the life of the mind. Though the app may unlock the digital door it remains to the seeker to carpe diem. Bear in mind that “on the Internet, nobody knows [much less cares] you’re an “’Older American.”(1)

(1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Internet,_nobody_knows_you’re_a_dog

 

An Ardent Archives Advocate Is Born

Regular readers of this blog may wonder why so many recent pieces about archives and archivists. The truth is that American Archives Month has presented an opportunity to think about a topic I’ve wanted to ponder for a relatively short while. Though folks may think it’s in the librarian DNA to think about archives, the fact is my interest is fueled not by training or long years of working in the library world but by my more recent dip into writing, particularly writing about the history of my neighborhood.

As a patron of Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library I have had the opportunity, the time and the incentive to dig deep into those archives. It’s in handling the documents and photos, reading the notes left by past archivists and librarians, noting the care with which the records are physically preserved, that I have come to appreciate the commitment of the individuals and of the institution itself to preserving the stories of our community.

Clearly, this is the same attitude and support that have created community library collections, county and local historical societies, the records of state agencies, nonprofits, the papers of individuals and institutions that have been shared, even digitized – and the records that have yet to be discovered.

Though it is my good fortune to be able to explore the archives in the serenity of the James Hosmer Special Collections – and with the generous assistance of extraordinary staff, I have become a ardent advocate for digitization that brings the content, if not the ambiance, to the learner. Whether that learner wants to know about his or her family, town, college, church, business, environment, house or neighborhood, the armchair searcher has exponentially expanding digital access. That means that archivists have not only turned paper photos into machine readable digits; they have cataloged the information so that the finding tools guide the searcher to the range of options or to the precise goal of the information quest.

It is of increasing concern that today’s extreme focus on today blinds the public and the Deciders to the importance – and the delight — of knowing from whence we came – and the beautiful human inclination to share with our descendents the stories of what we were thinking and doing “in the day.”

Something to think about as legislators, lobbyists and football franchise owners covet those Legacy funds that have opened the doors to many of the state’s archives.

Celebrate American Archives Month!

The very term “archives” conjures images of dust and decay accompanied by acrid aromas and tended by bespectacled history geeks.  All wrong.  And anyone who has ever explored family or house history, faced a legal dilemma, or wondered about local lore has had a brush with paper, digital or other archives.

 

October is American Archives Month, a season to be celebrated by the most tempero-centric – a time to think for a minute that those preserved photos, clippings, stories, public records and more didn’t just happen but have been collected, organized, preserved and made accessible through the deliberate and committed work of individuals and the commitment of institutions. 

 

At the time of the Minnesota Sesquicentennial I skimmed the state’s archival surface to compile a random list of irresistible lures to the world of archives.  Over the years I’ve tweaked it a bit – and was amazed to find it posted (sans attribution) on the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information website.  I have not checked to see if the original was edited by that group.

 

For some time I have wanted to share this listing and concluded that American Archives Month 2011 might be a propitious opportunity to resurface the whimsical list, slightly pruned and otherwise modified – not significantly updated because the month is just too short for a serious revision.

 

Many of the materials and descriptions here are accessible online; the print listings suggest a link to digital options. Because the digital resources offer an absolute minimum of the preserved record, we need and always will need multiple access options. Though digitization is growing at an exponential rate, its main contribution is to lure the armchair searcher into a passion to know more and to make the minimal effort to learn more.

 

This random list is absolutely arbitrary and whim-biased  with links to minute bits of Minnesota history.  Each of these guides, descriptions, stories was prepared by a Minnesotan, an organization or a state agency that cared enough about the state’s stories to collect, preserve, organize or otherwise help create the legacy.  Not everything is digitized or on the web – websites are just the most accessible right now.  These sites exemplify the ways in which Minnesotans have used the public records to plumb the depths of their particular interest or passion or legal encounter. 

 

Tending to the record of Minnesota is a collective responsibility and a public trust.  It takes personal conviction, time, talent and public support.  Without these and hundreds of thousands of other records, carefully organized and preserved, the Sesquicentennial would signify the passage of time rather than the values, the experience, the public record, and the recognition that access to information is at the very core of the democracy we share.  The challenge of today is to embrace that principle so that 21st technology enhances access to the building blocks and expands the embrace of this diverse, informed and sharing culture.

 

The disorganization is absolutely arbitrary – draw no conclusions. The omissions are legion.  Though a comprehensive and authoritative list would be a wonderful tool, the universe of possibilities is well nigh infinite and digitization is having a daily and profound impact on the possibilities. 

 

Pick a topic, probe a bit, and pause to think a bit about why and how we  preserve the data and the stories of our state.  Some places to start, bearing in mind that each of these tools reflects the commitment and labor, past and continuing, of an archivist and, in many cases, an institution:

 

Minnesota Archives, Minnesota Historical Society – MHS, along with several state agencies, is taking a lead at the national level in preserving the state’s own information digital resources.  It’s a monumental undertaking that does Minnesotans proud!  The depth of resources and the collaborative efforts of state agencies deserve an American Archives Month commendation. 

 

Minnesota Reflections, an overwhelming and growing collection of documents, photographs, maps, letters and more that tell the state’s story – a great starting point for any age.

 

James K. Hosmer Special Collections, Hennepin County Library – actually a collection of collections on topics ranging from Minneapolis history to club files to World War II and Abolition.  Much is digitized but, as always, that is but the tip of the iceberg – a tip worth checking out however.

 

Minnesota Place Names; a geographical encyclopedia, by Warren Upham.  A classic, originally published in 1920 and now available on line through the Minnesota Historical Society.   Overflowing with wonderful stories. 

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West Bank Boogie.  If you were around in the 60’s and 70’s you’ll be reminded – if not, see what you missed!  Cyn Collins is the collector and storyteller.

 

Holland, Maurice, Architects of Aviation, 1951.  William Bushnell Stout 1880-1956.  One man’s determination to record the stories of our aviation history.

 

A knack for knowing things: Stories from St. Paul neighborhoods and beyond, by Don Boxmeyer.  BiblioVault.

 

The Cuyuna iron range – Geology and Minerology, by Peter McSwiggen and Jane Cleland.

 

Ron Edwards, The Minneapolis Story Through My Eyes: A Renaissance Black Man in a White Man’s World. Continued by a bi-weekly column from The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder  and a TV show on Channel 17.

 

Center for International Education (The CIE) – a self-proclaimed “media arts micro-organization” the goal of which is to “make poetic media with people of all ages from all over the world.”  Videos including interviews with Robert Bly, Tom McGrath, Jim Northrup, Frederick Manfred and documentaries on Eugene McCarthy, Paul Wellstone, Robert Bly, and much more. The world of Media Mike Hazard.

 

Alexander G. Huggins Diary and Huggins Family Photographs, Collections Up Close.  This is just one of numerous podcasts and blogs describing in depth the individual collections of the Minnesota Historical Society.  Re-live the day-to-day travels of this mission family in Minnesota 1830-1860.  Just a sample of the podcast/blogs from MHS.

 

Minnesota Tobacco Document Depository – built as part of the settlement with Philip Morris, Inc. et al.  26 million pages of documents.

 

Frances Densmore  Prolific writer and chronicler of the cultures of the Dakota and Ojibwe and other Native American Tribes.  Densmore also recorded over 2,000 wax cylinders of Native music.

 

The Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies, University of Minnesota Libraries.

Ramseyer-Northern Bible Society Collection.  The largest non-seminary Bible collection in the Upper Midwest.  Donald J. Pearce, Curator.

Rhoda Gilman, historian extraordinaire,  The Story of Minnesota’s Past, just one of several books by Gilman.   “The Dakota War and the State Sesquicentennial” is a more current blog representing her ongoing contributions to preserve and elucidate Minnesota’s story.  Google Rhoda Gilman for more glimpses of her writings over the past several decades.

 

Evans, Rachel.  Tribal College Librarians Build Map Database, Library of Congress Info Bulletin, Oct. 2002

The Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature, University of Minnesota Libraries.

Perfect Porridge.  A good compilation of the TC’s Electropunk scene and lots of information about what’s happening on the broadly-defined media scene.

 

Saint Paul Police Historical Society, Saint Paul Police Oral History Project.  One man’s (Timothy Robert Bradley’s)  passion shared with the public.

 

William Watts Folwell,  Though  Folwell was best known as the first President of the University of Minnesota from 1868-1884 he moved on from that post to serve as professor of political science and continued as University Library until 1907.  The Folwell family papers, 1898-1944, can be found in the U of M Archives.

 

This Sister Rocks!  Thirty years ago Joan Kain, CSJ wrote a small book Rocky Roots: Three Geology Walking Tours of Downtown St. Paul.  The book, which  resurfaced during the 2006 International Rock Symposium, is now being edited for reissue by the Ramsey County Historical Society.

 

Lowertown, a project of the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, interviews artists who live, work and exhibit in Lowertown St. Paul.  The website also provides links to the websites of the individual arts.  A rich celebration and close-up view of this area’s art community.

 

Park Genealogical Books are this community’s specialists in genealogy and local history for Minnesota and the surrounding area.  Their list of publication includes how-to’s on genealogy, research hints and unique assists for anyone working on Minnesota genealogy, records and archives.  The life’s work of Mary Bakeman.

 

Fort Snelling Upper Post is a labor of love on the part of Todd Hintz.  Todd offers an historical timeline, a description of the current situation, wonderful photos by Mark Gustafson and an intro to related resources.  Great for anyone who cares of preservation of Fort Snelling.

 

Minnesota Historical Society, Oral History Collection.  Pioneers of the Medical Device Industry in Minnesota.  A sample of the rich oral history collection of the MHS.

 

Scott County Historical Society, Stans Museum.  Minnesota Greatest Generation Scott County Oral History Project.

 

Haunted Places in Minnesota.  Scores of deliciously spooky sites you’ve probably visited – but never will again – without trepidation.

 

Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi. Postcards and lots of memorabilia that tell the story of the river.

 

Special Libraries Association.  MN SLA: Early Chapter History (1943-1957)

 

Land Management Information Center – zillions of maps and mountains of data, plus people to help.

 

Minnesota Legislature, Geographic Information Services – maps of legislative and congressional districts, election results, school districts and much more.

 

Minnesota State University, Moorhead, Library.  Maps and Atlases – great guide to government produced maps and atlases

 

Minnesota Public Records Directory.  A commercial listing of Minnesota’s public records sources.

 

Minnesota Senate Media Coverage – live and archive coverage of Senate floor sessions, committee hearings, press conferences and special events.

 

Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes – statutes, indexes, rules, drafting manuals and more.

 

Minnesota State Law Library, Minnesota Legal Periodical Index.  A practical guide prepared by the state’s law librarians.

 

Minnesota Historical Society Press, Minnesota History.  Quarterly publication featuring original researched articles, illustrations, photographs and other treasures from the MHS.

 

The Civil War Archive – more than you ever needed to know about the Union Regiment in Minnesota.

George, Erin.  Delving deeper: Resources in U’s Borchert Map Library, Continuum 2007-08. description of the massive resources of the U of M’s Borchert Library.

Shapiro, Linda.  Art History Goes Digital..   Description of the digitizing initiatives of the University of Minnesota’s collections.

 

Drawing: Seven Curatorial Responses.  Katherine E. Nash Gallery.  Curators’ perspectives on the challenge of organizing and make accessible this one art format.

 

The Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums.  A forum for peer assistance among over fifty county, city and other local historical societies.

 

Minnesota Historical Society Collections Up Close.  Beautifully illustrated podcasts about what’s new at the MHS.  Regularly updated.

 

The Tell G. Dahllof Collection of Swedish Americans, University of Minnesota Libraries.  The collection encompasses American history seen from a Swedish perspective, the history of Swedish emigration to America, Swedish culture in America, and general descriptions by Swedish travelers to America.

 

University of Minnesota Media History Project, promoting media history “from petroglyphs to pixels.”

Ten Years of Sculpture and Monument Conservation on the Minnesota State Capitol Mall, compiled by Paul S. Storch, Daniels Objects Conservation Laboratory, Minnesota Historical Society.  Just one of dozens of similar conservation studies you’ll find at this site.

Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records.  Live access to federal land conveyance records for the public land states.  Image access to more than three million federal land title records for Eastern public land states issued between 1820 and 1908.  Much more!

Minnesota History Topics, a list of Minnesota-related topics to get you thinking about exploring Minnesota history.

 

Minnesota Government, an excellent guide to state government information sources compiled by the Saint Paul Public Library.

 

Minnesota History Quarterly.  Publication of the Minnesota Historical Society Press.  Available as subscription or with membership.  This one sample will give you the flavor, but there are lots more where this came from!

 

Revisor’s Office Duties – publications duties.  The Office of the Revisor of States covers many bases, particularly during the legislative session.  This list of publications offers a good overview of the Revisor’s domain.

 

New!!  Library Search, now in beta test phase.  A web interface for locating print (including articles), databases, indexes, electronic, and media items. Try it out and offer your unique feedback!

 

Geographic Information Services, State of Minnesota.  Includes scores of interactive maps of population, election results, school districts, legislative districts and more.

 

Children’s Literature Research Collections (Kerlan Collection), University of Minnesota Libraries, Special Collection.  A unique and inspiring collection of books, illustrations, manuscripts, notes and other records of children’s writers and illustrators.  The Kerlan also offers a robust series of presentations by children’s authors, writers and critics. 

 

Family History Centers in Minnesota.  One small component of the massive resources of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.

 

Historic Museums in Minnesota.  Prepared by the Victorian Preservation of Santa Clara Valley.  An amazing resource with tons of information and in incredible wealth of links.  They offer this self-deprecating introduction:  “This is all pretty high tech for a bunch of people living in the past, but then you probably know our valley by its other name, Silicon Valley.”

 

Minnesota History Along the Highways, compiled by Sara P. Rubinstein.  Published by the Minnesota Historical Society.  Locations and texts of 254 historic markers, 60 geologic markers, and 29 historic monuments in all corners of the state.

 

Ramsey County Historical Society, the officially-recognized historical society of Ramsey County.  The Society’s two primary programs are the Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life and the quarterly magazine on Ramsey County history and St. Paul.

 

The Regional Alliance for Preservation, formerly the Upper Midwest Conservation Center at the Minneapolis Art Institute.

 

Minnesota HYPERLINK “http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind/index.html” Lakefinder, sponsored by the DNR, provides in-depth information about 4500 lakes and rivers in the state – surveys, maps, water quality data and more, including a new mobile app for the water or ice-based fisher.

 

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries and Oral History, a database including 2,162 authors and approximately 100,000 pages of information re. immigration to America and Canada, 1800-1850.  Produced in collaboration with the University of Chicago by Alexander Street Press.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Finding Aids to Collections Organized by Topic in the Archive of Folk Culture, compiled by Ross. S. Gerson. Minnesota Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture.  Library of Congress.   Sound recording in various formats.  You won’t believe the recordings they have preserved. The American Folklife Center

 

Minnesota Spoken Word Association, formed to create an alliance among spoken word artists and a resource center. Emphasis on youth.

Women of the Polanie Club Share the Polish Heritage for Eighty Decades and More

Of the scores of clubs and organizations that have donated their priceless archives to the James K. Hosmer Special Collections at the Minneapolis Central Library none collected and preserved the record more thoroughly than the Polanie Club.  Known well by Polish Americans everywhere and by residents of Northeast Minneapolis in particular, the Polanie Club is mighty force committed to preserving – and sharing – all that is good about Polish culture.

The Polanie Club  became a reality in October 1927 when a dozen young women of Polish descent gathered for a social club and welcome home to a friend who had just returned from Poland, “full of enthusiasm” to share what she had learned.  The young women agreed to a common purpose,  shaped a collective vision and a shared mission: to preserve their Polish heritage – the history, language, art, music and cuisine of their native land.  The fledgling group called themselves the Polanie Club, “polanie” meaning “people of the prairie.”  From the outside the Club served as a resource, providing Polish national clothing, exhibits, recipes, and a library open to the community.  In the   1930’s the Club sponsored Polish language classes at the U of M and at two public high schools.

Nearly a half century after the formation of the Polanie Club the publication  Northeast: A history described the women and the early days of the club they shaped:

Each was beginning her career as wife, mother, teacher, social worker, lawyer, musician or University student.  Even the Depression years, which followed, were gay times at the Club…The group celebrated each other’s birthdays, engagements, graduation, scholarship awards, and new babies, but never lost sight of its main purpose, to enhance understanding of Polish culture.  This was largely due to the influence of Monica Krawczyk.  (from notes found in the Polanie Club file housed at the James K. Hosmer Special Collections, Minneapolis Central Library)

The unidentified author of this article reminds the reader that the Polanie Club grew at a time when many Polish Americans were changing their names by dropping the RZ-SC-CA combination that native Americans found difficult.

Over the years the Polanie Club continued to meet in members’ homes where they enjoyed comraderie and a monthly gourmet dinner.  Though they ardently supported the defense effort, they held firm to their commitment to preserving the Polish culture.  Wartime programs included “The Music of Poland”(1939), Musical Education in Poland”, and “Poland, a Songland of the World from Music and Youth,”  Later programs featured “Polish Folklore” and” “Polish Women Authors” among a long list of serious discussions of Polish culture, talks often presented by noted scholars and artists.

At these monthly meetings, the women reviewed their many projects and pondered how best to promulgate Polish culture in this country.  Focus on writing and publishing, they agreed, was the best way to spread the word.

Their first publishing venture was launched in 1942 with a collection of the lyrics of 110 Polish songs, Piesni Ludowe. On their 15th anniversary they published Victoria Janda’s collection of poems entitled “Star Hunger”.  That was followed two years later by the poet’s “Walls of Space.”  In 1948 the Polanie Club published its premiere best seller, a cookbook entitled Treasured Polish Recipes for Americans, illustrated by Stanley Legun, a Northeast Minneapolis artist.

The presses were kept busy with Polish publications – poetry, short stories and, in 1957, a compilation of over 300 songs – music and words.  This major work, entitled Treasured Polish Songs with English Translations was illustrated by Maria Werten and translated by Polanie members.

A major event for the Polanie Club came in 1966 when the organization sponsored the Annual Convention of the American Council of Polish Cultural Clubs (now known as the American Council for Polish Culture.)   The conference, held at the University of Minnesota, celebrated the Polish Millennium with a program of distinguished lecturers on the theme, “Poland through a Thousand Years”  The Polanie Club also supported the Polish American Cultural Institute of Minnesota in hosting the 1996 ACPC convention, held in Minneapolis.

The following year, in 1967, the Club celebrated their fortieth anniversary. In that year four members of the great (Josepha Contoski, Cecily Helgesen, Rose Polski Anderson and Marie Sokolowski), received research grants for study in Poland.  Their experiences and the realia with which they returned to the Twin Cities launched Polonie on a more formal exhibition program.  The Club had long supplied Polish costumes and memorabilia for local projects.  Now the Exhibit Committee, armed with the materials brought back by the grant recipients, extended the program of displays – for which they soon began to receive acclamation and awards.

In 1977 members of the Polanie Club celebrated their 50th anniversary in style with a Red and White Ball at the Holiday Inn on the Nicollet Mall.   They also expanded their publications list.  Treasured Polish Folk Rhymes, Songs and Games was translated into English then published in both languages.

Over the years the list grew.  In 1983 Polanie published Bocheck in Poland: A children’s story about the white stork, the fairytale bird of the old world, by Joseph Contoski.  In the late 1980’s the Club diversified their publications later with a 1989 cassette of Polish Christmas Carols and later a CD of Christmas carols created my piano virtuoso Bonnie Frels.

Let it not be written that Polanie Club members look only to the past – one of the most active programs of today’s Polanie is the scholarship program for post-secondary education.  Minnesotans of Polish-American descent are eligible for stipends to attend the post-secondary institution of their choice.  Since the inception of the program in 2000 tens of thousands of scholarships have been awarded.

When the American Council for Polish Culture met again in Minneapolis in 2003 Polanie  seized the opportunity of the organization’s lifetime when they were called upon to conduct national wide auditions for the Marcella Kochanska Sembrich Vocal Competitions.  The winner performed in concerts at both Hamline and Universities, events that offered hundreds of Twin Citians an opportunity experience the beauty of Polish culture.

A delightful tradition of Polanie is the annual Wigilia celebration, a Polish Christmas tradition kept alive in this community.  Wigilia, meaning “watchful vigil,” is hosted by Polanie during Advent, offering Minnesotans a chance to prepare for the Nativity in a celebratory but reflective gathering feature Polish food, live performances and an altogether “magical evening.”

At this writing, members of the Polanie Club are working feverishly on preparations for the Twin Cities Polish Festival 2011, August 13-14 on the banks of the Mississippi near St. Anthony Main.  The event itself is a celebration of Polish culture featuring a Chopin Celebration, a Polish film festival, an exhibit of the works of Joseph Conrad, Polish jazz and folk music and dance – along with fabulous food and great exhibits where visitors can learn about the Twin Cities Polish community, including the Polanie Club.  Don’t miss it!

Notes:

v    In truth, having lived in Northeast Minneapolis fewer than thirty years, I am a newbie.  Learning about the women of the Polanie Club expands my understanding and appreciation of my neighborhood.  My profound thanks to those who have maintained the record, everyone who kept the minutes, clipped the newspapers, and preserved the reports.

v    It is worthy of note that the files are replete with the individual names of Polanie members and their roles in the Club.  Though I would love to have been able to attribute some of this credit, there were just too many women to name!

v    Most of the publications of Polanie are still available.  Check the Polanie publications on line.  If you don’t find the title you want there, check Amazon.  My google search was successful in finding virtually all of the titles new or used and at reasonable cost.

v    This piece was written for my blog, whimsically, if accurately, known as Poking Around with Mary.  That is what I do, poke around  – around my neighborhood, the city, libraries, parks, coffee shops, and any other sites or gatherings that catch my eye.  I also search online a range of interests, including a current passion to learn about and draw attention to threats to open government.  When I’m not poking around, I write about what I have learned.  If you’re interested you might take time to poke around the blog where you’ll find past posts on related issues including a piece on last year’s Polish Festival and several pieces of what’s happening in Northeast Minneapolis  You will find an easy subscription link online.

Minneapolis – City of Lakes, Learners, Clubs and Their Records

Busy bibliophiles and lifelong learners trying to squeeze in a quick read or a weekly study club take note – you are joining generations of intellectually curious and engaged Minneapolitans who shared the pleasure of a good read or a deep thought with friends and neighbors.

Discovering the Collection:  Consider the scores of boxes that cram the shelves of the Clubs & Organizations Collection in the James K. Hosmer Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library.  The collection reveals much of the city’s history through the largely unpublished legacy of neighborhood and professional groups that thrived in an earlier day.  Within the hundreds of archival boxes are the scrapbooks, directories, minutes, ledgers, programs, letters and ephemera that tell the story of the city’s social, learning and professional organizations dating from the mid-nineteenth century.

Best of all, library staff and supporters have created a beautifully annotated index of the contents of those boxes.  The indispensable guide provides a thumbnail sketch of each organization and an inventory of the treasures buried in the archives.

Perusing the Online Inventory:  The good news is that the well annotated index is available online where you can learn a good deal about the club before you attack the original files.  The index provides an overview of nearly 200 organizations, their mission, officers, membership, years of operation, what they read and discussed, where they met, and anything else you could have ever wanted to know about the famed study and social groups of an earlier time – the roots of which live on in this city of reading groups, neighborhood councils, ethnic gatherings and just plain clubs of every conceivable stripe.

These snippets from the files what your curiosity to dig deeper:

  • The Prospect Park Study Club, founded in the tradition of other Federation of Womens Clubs, discussed current interest and academic topics, with programs presented by club members.  The five (huge) boxes cover the Study Club’s doings from 1896 to 2001.
  • Or consider the Ramblers, folks who liked to travel and to discuss the “topography, art, literature, and music of different cultures.  Those files cover 1896 to 1949.
  • No surprise, the Saturday Lunch Club, 1927-1952, was an all-male upscale club founded by Stiles P. Jones (1862-1920), a prominent Twin Cities newsman.  The five boxes of club records list the membership which includes many familiar names while the list of speakers includes some of the nation’s most prominent leaders – W.E.B.DuBois, Clarence Darrow, William Jennings Bryan, Louis D.  Is it any wonder the city created a reputation for engagement and big picture thinking?

Active Minneapolitans didn’t think deep thoughts all the time, though – The collection includes the files of the Kennel Club, the Apollo Club (1895), the first male chorus, the Hostesses, founded in 1898 to make arrangements for a Ball, with the idea of making them a permanent social event each winter, and then there is the Lake Harriet Yacht Club, founded “to promote the physical and mental culture and the social interests of members.”

On a personal note, one issue that strikes me at first blush is that the majority of the files reflect the stories of women’s clubs – the question in my mind is whether there were more women who wanted to read good literature, discuss history, world affairs or social concerns — or did these women just keep their files in better order?

You can bury yourself for untold hours in the online inventory online – I know from experience.  If you don’t have a home computer, your neighborhood library offers a good option.  You’ll laugh, you’ll learn, and you’ll develop a keen appreciation of intellectual and social vitality that shaped today’s cultural, social, political, and recreational profile.

Exploring the Collection:  When you’ve focused on clubs that call out for further study, you’ll pine to dig into those file boxes and folders.  The James K. Hosmer Special Collection is housed in elegant and temperature controlled splendor at the Minneapolis Central Library, 4th floor, behind the ornate carved arched entryway. (the archway was transported originally from the late lamented Library at 10th Hennepin from whence it has migrated over time to its present site in this ultra-21st Century setting.)

And then the fun begins!

  • First and always, call ahead  (612 657-8200)  to give staff time to pull the files you seek – it seems like magic but in fact it’s the result of a skilled and extraordinarily committed staff that runs miles to gather the files from their secure location.
  • Assuming you called ahead, you’ll find materials waiting for you – in this case, archival boxes filled with files maintained by the club in their day or a sheaf of envelopes filled with carefully dated clippings and photos – always a delightful surprise.
  • Then marinate your mind in the stories that leap from the often hand-written notes, membership lists, minutes, and other treasures that divulge the stories of the club about which you want to learn more.
  • If you need a coffee break (1st floor) or have to leave the Library, tell staff and your materials will be waiting for you next trip (assuming it’s soon.)
  • If you need photocopies, you’ll find a low cost and efficient copier that takes coins and even gives change.  If you want to scan something, talk with staff.  Tip:  you will need to copy anything you want to take with you – nothing in the Special Collections Library circulates.
  • Suggestion:  Leave yourself time to browse the stacks.  Though what’s on the open stacks is a smidgeon of the archives’ holdings there are unexpected finds.  If you’re interested in Minneapolis clubs you’ll want to peruse the shelves of the Minneapolis Collection.

My personal hopes:

1) That this small snippet whets your mental appetite to learn more about the history of this city – the neighborhood leaders,  special interest proponents, ethnic groups,  readers and writers, politicians and good government advocates, education supporters and others who took time and made the effort to think big thoughts about their era and about the future.

2) That I can and do make time to plumb the depths of many of these energetic organizations.  My plan is to start with learning all I can about the Polanie Club, a social club founded in 1927 and still going strong today.  The Club was established by twelve young women who wanted to learn more about, share and preserve their Polish culture.  Polanie, meaning ‘people of the plains, aptly describes their interest in the Polish language, literature, music, food, history, art, folklore and more.  The Polanie Club has played a significant role in preserving the Polish legacy which is so much a part of my adopted Northeast neighborhood.  I can’t wait to learn more and to visit the incredible Twin Cities Polish Festival again this year – it’s August 13-14 on the Mississippi Riverfront!

3) That readers will focus on a club that peaks their fancy, check the online inventory, explore the files, interpret and employ 21st Century tools to share the stories with 21st Century Minneapolitans.

 

 

 

Who Lived Here – and When? Lots of Help Available for Curious Homeowners

Staffers who work with patrons on a daily basis in the James K. Hosmer Special Collections Library at Minneapolis Central Library report that a large percentage of their patrons are at the library to research the history of their homes, property or neighborhoods or to ask about a specific building or historic or utilitarian value.

I’m one of those patrons, constantly seeking information about the Windom Park neighborhood and surrounding environment so I probably inflate their statistics – and I haven’t even attempted house searching yet

These wise professionals are also quick to point out that the James K Hosmer Special Collections Library is not the sole source for researchers.  They have prepared an extremely useful guide to the resources of Special Collections and to other options within the information community.

The complete guide, available online, covers a wide range of research strategies, tools and resources.  Experienced staffers strongly  advise that that searchers call in advance (612 543 8200) so that staff has time to locate the information needed.  Remember there are miles of shelves packed with 125 years of carefully collected reference data!

These in-house and online resources are accessible at or through the James K. Hosmer .  All of this information is provided by library staff, with the slightest of tweaking on my part – just so I can say I had a hand in sharing the information with potential patrons.

Original building permit index card:  Searchers will start the process by obtaining a photocopy that lists the legal description of the property and every permit pulled. Permits are also available from the Minneapolis Development Review which is searchable online.

The Development Review Office is located in Room 300 of the Public Service Building, 250 South 4th Street, Mpls).  That Office can provide building permits (1884-1973), building, moving and writing permits or house’s architect, if there was one, as well detailed information provided through the 1934 Works Progress Administration (WPA) survey which included the condition of the building and yard, type of heating, availability of water and sewer connections, refrigeration, number and necessity of the occupants.

Architecture:  Check Special Collections for information on a building’s architecture.  This is also available through the Northwest Architectural Archives at the University of Minnesota, a repository that holds the city’s most extensive collection of information about Minnesota architects, contractors, and their projects.

Newspaper clippings.  Special Collections houses the dailies as well as a good collection of Minneapolis neighborhood newspapers.  These provide access to clippings for a particular address, homeowner, architect or neighborhood.  Newspapers are listed on the library’s online catalog or ask a Special Collections librarian (in advance) to access the historic clippings.

Online photo database Special Collections provides access to approximately 10,000 photographs that date back to the 19th Century.  The librarians also suggest other resources including the Hennepin History Museum which “houses a significant collection of Minneapolis home and building photographs.” The Museum photos are not online but searchers may call to see if they have the desired photos.

Special Collections librarians also note that the Minnesota Historical Society supports several online image databases (look for their finding guide online)  while the University of Minnesota’s IMAGES database and Minnesota Reflections offer other search options.

Remember the camera is not a new technology – photos abound!

Minneapolis City Directory (1859-2003)   The Directory lists the previous occupants of a house and often their occupation.  Beginning in 1930 the reverse directory makes it possible to look up an address and find the names of residents.  Available on microfiche on the 4th floor of the Library.

Dual City Blue Book (1885-1924).  Private directory that lists the names of the city’s wealthier residents alphabetically and by address.  Available on microfiche on the 4th floor.

Platbooks.  The Library also has digitized platbooks (1885-1898-1914) online or view paper copies.  There are additional platbooks on the 4th floor next to the information desk;  some platbooks have been digitized.   The University of Minnesota Borchert Map Library also provides access to an online collection of local platbooks.

Historic maps and atlases (1850’s to 1920’s). The collection includes property boundaries, roads, railroad tracks, streetcar lines, names of businesses, and geographical attributes.  The oldest maps of the city are available online through Minnesota Reflections.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Database (1950’s to 1920’)   Property boundaries, roads, railroad tracks and streetcar lines, the names of businesses and geographical features.  These are available in the James K. Hosmer Special Collections as well as at the Borchert Library and the Minnesota Historical Society Library.

Lot Surveys on Microfilm (1916-1965)  Surveys contain original footprint, dimensions and outbuildings of a property or building.  Because surveys are arranged by permit number, not by address, searchers must obtain the home’s original building code permit number to access the lot survey (see above.)  Available on microfilm in the general periodicals department on the 3rd floor.

 

NOTE:

The Hosmer Special Collections librarians also suggest the following possible avenues to research a house, farmstead, public land, or neighborhood.

  • Minnesota Historical Society which provides an excellent guide to Building and House History resources including its new Placeography wiki.  It’s an information-backed start for exploring the incredible resources of MHS.  [Because of the State Shutdown it has impossible to get access, much less plumb the depths, of the MHS – perhaps later when the doors and website are open again.]
  • Aerial photographs from the 1930’s to present show in detail the evolution of neighborhoods over time, physical and social features of the land including road maps, land use maps and demographic maps.  A wide selection is available at the John R. Borchert Map Library at the University of Minnesota,
  • Public Land Survey System (1848-1907).  Information about the land which a property is sited with original public land survey maps.  Handwritten notes recorded by public land surveyors are available on microfilm and index in the periodicals department at Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota.  Surveys are available online.
  • Social Explorer.  Information about the demographic characteristics of a neighborhood and how they changed over time in a fun format.  Based on census information 1790 through 2010.  Everything you wanted to know about the Census, the American Community Survey, religious persuasion, population and housing characteristics for redistricting, carbon emissions and a whole lot more!
  • Northwest Architectural Archives.  The Archives include  records of architects, engineers, contractors, landscape architects and interior designers from Minnesota, western Wisconsin, northern Iowa and the eastern Dakotas.  There is a partial list of building plans created by Minneapolis architects and builders (1909-1993) online.

This post is based entirely on the work of the library staff at the James K. Hosmer Special Collections Library and to their forebeaerrs to whom I am eternally grateful – for their spirit of service, their care of the collection and their commitment to preserving the story of this city. MT