Tag Archives: Minnesota History Center

Ideas Abound for Celebrating Women’s History Month 2013 – and Beyond

The time is right to get organized for Women’s History Month – 2014.  The wealth of materials available – and the great ideas ready for WHM 2013, are truly overwhelming and exciting..  With absolutely no pretense of offering a comprehensive calendar of events, here are a few random samples of what’s going on in Minnesota.  With apologies for all the great projects overlooked, here’s a potpourri of ideas in place for this year’s observance:

  • March 6 – Women’s History Month Recital, Winona State University Performance Arts Center Recital Hall.  Songs and instrumental pieces by women composers from the 17th through the 20th centuries – 12:00 p.m.  Free.
  • March 7 – Dakota Women: Keepers of the Village, 7:00 p.m. Ramsey County Library-Roseville.  Free.
  • March 8 – Mary Colter, Pioneering Minnesota Architect, presented by Diane Trout-Oertel, 1:30-2:30 p.m. Landmark Center, Room 430. Free.
  • March 8 – The Austin MN AAUW will announce the winners of the Women’s History essay contest sponsored by AAUW and Austin High School.
  • March 9 – The Minnesota Historical Society will offer a special tour of the State Capitol.  Focus will be on the role of Minnesota women involved in the suffrage movement, particularly at the state level.  11:00-1:00.  Various fees.
  • March 10, Ethel Stewart, Ramsey County Historical Society Founder, presented by Steve Trimble, 1:00-2:00 p.m., Landmark Center, Room 320.  Free.
  • March 14 & 15 – Women’s History Month: The Historical Comedybration.  Bryant Lake Bowl,, 7:00 p.m.  $12 day of show, $10 in advance.
  • March 17 – Women United to Win – annual women’s appreciation event focused on ending domestic violence (focus of International Women’s Day 2013)
  • March 19 – Quilting for the Cause – Ramsey County Library, New Brighton, 6:30 p.m. Free.
  • March 21 – Sisterhood of War: Minnesota Women in Vietnam, 7:00 p.m. Ramsey County Library Roseville.  Free.
  • March 22, Mary Hill, Family Matriarch, presented by Eileen McCormack, 10:00-11:00 a.m, Landmark Center, Room 320
  • March 23, Women of Mill City, Mill City Museum.  Portrayers of Ann Pillsbury, Mary Dodge Woodward, Eva McDonald Valesh and Gratia Countryman. 1:00-4:00.  Various prices, associated programming.

Armchair Options:

  • KUMD at the University of Minnesota-Duluth is working on yet another series of daily tributes to women who have made Minnesota history.   Keep up with this amazing series by clicking here.
  • The Minnesota Department of Human Rights produces and maintains a resource about human rights events and people – a great resources f or this month.  Snippets of stories and pictures of events and individuals including such Minnesota heroines as Nellie Stone Johnson, Clara Ueland, Martha Ripley and Rosalie Wahl.
  • The National Park Service will take you inside a stately mansion you’ve driven by a hundred times, the Elizabeth C. Quinlan House at 1711 Emerson Avenue South in the Lowry Hill Neighborhood of South Minneapolis.
  • See what the librarians at the New York Public Library have pulled from the print and digital stacks of that vast resource.
  • Gather a group of virtual or on-site friends to test your knowledge of women’s history with the Women’s History Month Quiz created by Margaret Zierdt, National Women’s History Project Board member.

In sum, the point is to look for programs, books to read, speakers, media productions live or streamed that share the stories of women who have made a difference.  And start thinking about how to observe Minnesota Women’s Month next year.  Time is fleeting and the stories are everywhere.

Minnesotans Reflect on the US-Dakota War of 1862

The Indians wanted to live as they did before the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux – go where they pleased…hunt game wherever they could find it, sell their furs to the traders and live as they could.  Big Eagle, Mdewankanton, 1894.

 When I was very young we would visit the farm in McLeod County where my mother grew up. There was a marker in the field and a mystery about the place.  It was said that this was where Little Crow fought and died – I have wondered but never really wanted to know the truth. 

Later, for a decade, I worked in a library that literally overlooked the spot in Mankato where the 38 Dakota Indians were hanged in 1862.  Again, I retreated from learning more than the minimum.  I never even paused in my hundreds of trips along Highway 169 to visit the Treaty Site History Center at Traverse des Sioux near St. Peter.

In a word, I have always resisted knowing the truth about the US-Dakota War of 1862.  The truth was too painful, too much.

The Minnesota Historical Society makes me face the facts – at a pace and in myriad ways that force me to make an effort to internalize the reality of what happened 150 years ago and to comprehend the ways in which the US-Dakota War of 1862 shaped the world in which we live.

The hallmark of the MHS exploration of our history is the multi-dimensional art exhibit that opened June 30 at the Minnesota History Center.  The exhibit grapples with the conflicting interpretations of events and encourages visitors to “review the evidence and determine for themselves what happened and why.” 

And there are special programs coming up soon that offer opportunities to further explore the facts and the stories.  The first is July 18, 7:00 p.m. at the Minnesota History Center.  The free program is an introduction to the US-Dakota War and its impact on the making of Minnesota.  Mary Lethert Wingerd, author of North Country: The Making of Minnesota, will participate in that discussion.

This is followed the next week by a program entitled “We Are Still Here: Minnesota is a Dakota Place.”  This free program is July 25, 7:00 p.m. also at the Minnesota History Center.  Gwen Westerman, Dakota artist, poet and scholar, will share her perspectives on the modern Dakota people and their place in Minnesota’s history and culture.

Other free and open public programs at the Minnesota History Center follow in coming months.  There will be a Dakota Family History Class on September 11 and a Dakota Family Day on September 29.

The learning opportunities virtually flow forth from the generous Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota History Center.  The travel guide to Minnesota sites related to the Dakota War is an itinerant learner’s treasure trove.  Even the homebound can vicariously experience the reality of the War and the devastated people who were – and are – affected.  Every Minnesota has an opportunity and a challenge to physically or mentally travel the land where people lived and died, where the war itself caused such pain. 

Mobile guide in hand, visitors have entrée to and descriptive information to stop at learning resources ranging from the Historic Fort Snelling to Traverse des Sioux near St. Peter to the Birch Coulee Battlefield near Morton to the Harkin Store in New Ulm to the Lower Sioux Agency near Redwood Falls and Fort Ridgely State Park near Fairfax..

And then there are the virtual learning opportunities. The wealth of print, audio and video digital resources gives the armchair learner the facts and stories – and time to think about the implications. 

The Minnesota History Center is the principal among countless Minnesota initiatives to help us all understand – or at least think about  – the US-Dakota War of 1862.  The website in particular is a guide to the myriad initiatives that abound in organizations, communities, colleges and libraries, museums and more.

Discover the magnificent Minnesota History Center in real time and place at 345 Kellogg Boulevard in St. Paul, just across from the State Capitol where the 19th Century saga continues.  Or explore the institution’s virtual presence on the Minnesota History Center website, on Facebook or on Twitter. Or call 651 259 3000 for more information about the US-Dakota War of 1862.



Reflections on the “1968” Exhibit

The Minnesota History Center’s blockbuster “1968” exhibit has definitely got  museum visitors talking – during and after the exhibit.   Having made but one pilgrimage to the MHC for the exhibit I have been mulling it over in the aftermath of what I do hope is the first of several visits during the month to come.

Reflecting on my MLK Day visit evokes vivid images not so much of the exhibit but as the visitors.  First there were the young folks (because it was MLK Day the audience was skewed to the school-age crowd.)  The boys were exploding with military adrenalin at the very sight of the helicopter (which I found almost unbearable);  I heard in-depth discussions of the relative effectiveness of grenades vs. rifles – the kill-power was of great concern to a couple of pre-teens in particular.  The little girls  seemed more concerned with their own 2012-era  finery  and the blaring music from ancient times than with the subtleties of feminism.

And then there were the moms and dads – “That was five years  before Mommy was born…”  was the sort of phrase I heard repeatedly.  These were good parents, trying to expose their kids to history they themselves had learned about from stories their elders passed down or from documentaries.  They knew the big names (Humphrey, the Beatles, RFK) and many had a dad or granddad who had served in the Nam.

It was the grandparents I watched with the keenest interest.  They were quiet, reflective, remembering.   Me, too.  I was remembering where I was, with whom, what I was wearing during the protests, the day MLK died, the torturous Dem Convention  in Chicago, the Children’s Crusade led by McCarthy.  I remembered the music, the clothes, the funeral of MLK (which I listened to time after time.)

The memories and reflective spirit have been with me since.  I’ve talked with friends about our reactions.  Underwhelmed, we said to each other.  We were there.   We know what it was like.   We had friends and family members in Vietnam.  We marched for civil rights and against the war.  For my part I was working at a predominantly African American college  in inner-city Washington, DC throughout that tumultuous year so life in a burning city is etched permanently in my living memory, along with the strident voices of “women’s lib” before it had a clear thrust, much less a handle.

The MHC exhibit is captivating, informative and a fine tip of the historic iceberg it represents.  This is a good thing for Minnesotans of every age.

Still, what chaffs for those some of us who were submerged in all that – the war, the riots, the murder, the music — is that we have been “museum-ized.”  We are not the observers but the subject of the exhibit.  We want to shout out, to inform the visitor’s experience with our own perceptions and experiences.

When I mentioned this concept of museumization to a group, one friend was quick to recollect a visit that he and his wife had made to a history of technology exhibit.  They were early computer geeks, when computers were behemoth and geeks had not yet become a career option.  After viewing the punch cards and IBM 360 machines behind glass enclosures these early adapters concluded that they should be behind glass as part of the exhibit – museumized in real time.

We expect museums to explore and expose remote relics of the past to those of us who are living and learning from a position of power built on the progress of humankind and on our power to shape the story.   It’s a different and uncomfortable experience to find oneself as the subject memorialized on film or photo or bit of realia.   The universal response seems to be an irresistible urge to correct, or at least augment, the story.

This bit of introspection is helping me understand with newfound clarity the response American Indians have to the depiction and interpretation of their role in Minnesota history.  Though this was not the intent of 1968,  for me it’s a healthy byproduct of a memorable museum experience.

Museumization  is not easy for a person or for a people.