MN Historical Society

Flaunt the word “Pride” in the Twin Cities during the last weekend in June, and you’re likely to summon images of pink triangles and red ribbons, rainbow flags and lambdas, as we celebrate the past and present of the local GLBT community.

After all the lavender dust has settled on Loring Park, you might consider trading your pink triangles for Pink Lady Slippers, your red ribbons for Red Pine, your rainbow flag for the Minnesota flag, and your lambda for a Loon—all toward the end of observing another version of pride: the pride of your home state.

OK, OK,  “pride” isn’t a very Minnesotan trait, but the Land of 10,000 Lakes has a lot to offer its residents, so the best way to appreciate our radiant present is to discover our variegated past…and the ultimate way to achieve that is to check out the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS).

The organization itself owns quite a lot of local history—literally. In fact, it is named in the Minnesota Constitution, and predated actual statehood by nearly a decade.

In its current form, MHS refers to itself as “a private, nonprofit educational and cultural foundation dedicated to preserving the Gopher State’s history.”

MHS owns and operates more than two-dozen historic sites and museums, some of which overlap with state parks.

This year is Minnesota’s Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary), and MHS is commemorating the uberevent by numerous observations that span the entire state and the entire year. A whole spectrum of solemnizations (and not-so-solemnizations) remember bits of history as divergent as bundt cake and music, native technology and European threshing, as well as an embarrassment of riches in Independence Day celebrations.

Marking Minnesota pride can be a yearlong affair. Each of the Twin Cities has numerous venues for such chronological partying, but some are more famous than others.

Citizens of Minneapolis might be surprised to learn that their home was once known as the Mill City. That, and less Cliff-Claven-esque facts, are available for discovery in profusion at the Mill City Museum, presided over by MHS, and housed within the old Washburn “A” Mill, at one time the second-largest flour mill in Minneapolis—which is more important and more interesting than it sounds. A tour will show visitors each of the labors performed back in The Day on each of the “A” Mill’s eight floors. Along the way, one can bear witness to the machinery those men and women wielded, as well as other exhibits. The flour tower is an animatronic recreation of the milling experience, cleverly disguised as an elevator. Just next door, at the adjoining grain elevator, a “Gold Medal Flour” sign casts its light over space…and time.

Across the river, a hub of Twin Cities earliest, rowdiest history is Fort Snelling. Originally known as Fort Saint Anthony, it’s now a US Historical Landmark, and, according to the Census Bureau, an organized territory with its own population of slightly more than 400. The site, at least in part, carefully has been restored to its original facade. The staff greet visitors in period costumes. Within the technical confines of the landmark is a place where people live perpetually in the past—specifically, Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Numerous military heroes rest there.

Perhaps “Hail! Minnesota,” the state’s official theme song, says it best where MHS’s mission is concerned: “They shall guard thy fame and adore thy name; Thou shalt be their Northern star!”

Minnesota Historical Society
345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul
(651) 259-3000

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