The scifi author Thomas Disch died of suicide on July 4.  His work was brilliant, difficult, and formally groundbreaking, especially his 334 and Camp Concentration. Born in Iowa, he spent his teens in Minnesota, and often returned here in his fiction.  His first novel, The Genocides, which I highly recommend, features an earth invaded by giant plants, and a group of Minnesotans, farmers and others, striving to live in the changed and depopulated world.  It’s particularly compelling to read if you’re from the North Shore, which is never featured in disaster tales.  In The Genocides, Lake Superior is sucked up by the plants for irrigation, and Duluth is lovingly and thoroughly destroyed.  The farmers do not survive.  And now we’ve lost Disch himself.

A few fun things to celebrate my four-day weekend:

An interview with Kate Beaton, who writes brilliant history comics, and from whose comics I learned all my Canadian history (sorry, Adam!).


Great Moments in History, drawn on the Etch-a-sketch.

That’s all! I’m spending the weekend with Shakespeare in lovely Winona, Minnesota. I’ll be less scarce in July, I promise. History doesn’t stop just because it’s summer

Update:  Wow, I had to update with this:  Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross get married in Philly! (thanks, Mary)  Happy 4th!

The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, Cedar Rapids, Friday

Since I moved down to a floodplain, here in Rochester, Minn., I’ve been worried about local museums in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.  Cedar Rapids, of course, was totally under water, though the flood is receding.  But the museum there are been severely damaged.  The National Trust is reporting that the historic house museum Brucemore is okay, and possibly the collections of the art museum and Grant Wood museum, but the art museum, the library, the science center, the Czech and Slovak Museum (above, on Friday) and the African-American Museum were under water.  Here in Minnesota, in Austin the Spam Museum was closed for the flood last week, but it’s not clear if there was damage.  A state of emergency was declared for Mower (Austin) and Freeborn (Albert Lea) counties in southern Minnesota, but no word on other local museums.

I’ll keep you posted on places to send money and for any possibilities for collections professionals to go down and help out with the recovery.

The Minnesota Association of Museums annual meeting is on Monday, at the continuing ed center on the St. Paul campus of the U of M.  The theme is “Minnesota Museums Collaborate,” and there are lots of interesting sessions.  Later in the evening there’s a mixer at the Gibbs Farm, a living history museum that does some neat environmental interpretation, like an heirloom apple orchard.  Here’s the program and info.

8:30 to 9 a.m.


9 to 10:15 a.m.

Concurrent Sessions A

  • The Transforming Power of Collaboration
    Melinda Ludwiczak, MLIS, Partnerships Coordinator, Minneapolis Central Library, Hennepin County Library
    Camille Gage, Library Exhibition Review Committee Chair, Artist, Event Manager, Mondale Lectures on Public Service, Hubert, H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
    Carol Daly, Library Exhibition Review Committee Member, FORECAST Public Artworks Board Member, and Former State Director, Elderhostel
    The new Minneapolis Central Library, designed by Cesar Pelli, was set to open in May 2006 with a stunning exhibition gallery. A staff position was created and charged with building an exhibition program utilizing a collaboration model and a very modest budget. Find out how a multi-discipline committee was recruited to create an exhibition infrastructure and implement an exhibition schedule. This case study will describe how the exhibition committee was formed, techniques used to facilitate the committee’s work, and how partners are engaged through a collaborative exhibition program that reinforces and expands the mission of a 21st century public library.
  • Environmentalism Meets Local History
    Erin Anderson, Education Coordinator, Carver County Historical Society
    Larry Hutchings, Curator, Carver County Historical Society
    In July 2007, the Carver County Historical Society was awarded a grant by Community POWER (Partners on Waste Education and Reduction) to create and implement three day camps, two teacher workshops, and five school programs centered on eco-historical themes. By definition, eco-history is a collaboration, created by pairing historical topics with aspects of environmentalism (i.e. activism and education; land stewardship and historic preservation). This session will focus on teaching eco-history through collaborative efforts by the Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board, Carver County Environmental Services, and the Carver County Historical Society, and will include an overview of the museum’s proposed project.
  • Mixing It Up: Ideas and Action to Connect and Inspire
    Wendy Freshman, Public Programs Associate, Minnesota Historical Society
    Tim Barrett, Program Director, The Collaboration for the Advancement of College Teaching and Learning
    Performers from SteppingStone Theatre
    You literally will not sit still during this active session meant to connect participants and get you ready for the day.

10:30 to 11:45 a.m.

Concurrent Sessions B

  • The TRIO Institute: A Three Museum Collaboration for Teacher Professional Development
    Judi Petkau, Youth/Tour Coordinator, Weisman Art Museum
    Susan Rotilie, Program Manager for School Programs, Walker Art Center
    Cori Quinn, Manager of Teacher Resources, Minneapolis Institute of Arts
    This panel discussion will focus on a three-museum collaboration to address the needs of K-12 teachers and provide a forum to address related issues that museums share. The TRIO program grew out of a desire by the participating museum educators to create a sustainable professional development opportunity that could draw on the strengths of each institution and link into their shared audiences. Questions for discussion include: How do we engage teachers in an ongoing relationship of professional development across communities? What is the value of such collaboration? How might technology assist in our efforts? How can museums collaborate with higher education towards this end? What might be potential roles for museums in teacher professional development? Reflections on the pilot year of the TRIO Institute involving the Weisman, Walker and MIA will serve as a starting point for discussion.
  • The Northfield History Collaborative: Libraries, Archives, Museums and Businesses Working Together
    Hayes Scriven, Executive Director, Northfield Historical Society
    Sam Demas, Gould Library, Carleton College
    Debbie Nitz, Northfield Public Library
    Sue Garwood, Rice County Historical Society
    Attendees will learn how six cultural heritage institutions are collaborating to identify, catalog, and make accessible the records and artifacts relating to the history of Northfield, MN. They will hear how a group of librarians, archivists, museum professionals and business owners are bridging their professional differences and combining their expertise to provide seamless access across institutions. Attendees will participate in a conversation about the options under consideration to enable Northfielders to simultaneously search the local history holdings of the Carleton and St. Olaf College libraries and archives, the Northfield Public Library, the Northfield News, and the Rice County Historical Society and Northfield Historical Society.
  • The Minnesota Disappeared Collaborative Project
    Kerry Morgan, Director of Galleries and Exhibitions, Augsburg College
    Laurel Reuter, Director, North Dakota Museum of Art
    Colleen Sheehy, Director of Education, Weisman Art Museum
    Holly Ziemer, Director of Communications, Center for Victims of Torture
    Panel participants will discuss a unique collaboration that will culminate in fall of 2009 when the nationally-acclaimed contemporary art exhibition “The Disappeared” (curated by Laurel Reuter at the North Dakota Museum of Art) opens at the Weisman Art Museum along with eight coordinating art exhibitions at area colleges and universities. These academic institutions are working with non-profit organizations such as the Center for Victims of Torture to bring the issue of human rights to the fore and to engage as many diverse communities as possible in a variety of art exhibitions (including one at the Mall of America), readings, lectures and a film series.

11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.


12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Minnesota Association of Museums Annual Business Meeting

Keynote Address – Cathy Wurzer, Host of Morning Edition, Minnesota Public Radio

1:30 to 2:45 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions C

  • Pooling Resources = Big Results
    Tilly Laskey, Curator of Ethnology, Science Museum of Minnesota
    Joanne Jones-Rizzi, Director of People and Cultures Program, Science Museum of Minnesota
    Roxanne Gould, Independent Scholar and Professor, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College
    The Twin Cities have some of the best cultural resources in the world, including museums, collections, visual artists, musicians, theaters, researchers, universities and colleges, and vibrant communities. At The Science Museum of Minnesota, we strive to collaborate and involve multiple audiences. But what if Minnesota’s cultural institutions pooled our resources? What if we worked together in a small town/university model of communication to have a national or even international impact? This session will discuss ideas and big dreams for playing well with others, as well as document successful collaborations, specifically an international partnership traveling programs, an exhibit and performances to Basque Country, Spain.
  • Scouts All About
    Claudia Nicholson, Executive Director, North Star Museum for Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting
    Shana Crosson, Web Content Manager,Minnesota Historical Society, and Girl Scout Troop Leader
    Representatives from area Girl Scout and Boy Scout Councils
    Minnesota museums are increasingly teaming with Scouting organizations to develop programs that meet and exceed the expectations of both groups. This session will demonstrate some successful partnerships, and introduce museum staff and Scouting staff who have developed programs. Hear directly from successful partners just what’s involved to make Scouting programs a highly successful element of your programming.
  • “Goldie’s Treasures”- a Cultural Walking Tour on the U of M St. Paul Campus
    Staff of the Goldstein Gallery, Bell Museum of Natural History, and University of Minnesota Raptor Center
    From 1:45-2:45 pm and from 3 -4 pm, visit one of three sites nearby to enjoy staff presenting about gems in their collections. Sign up at morning registration; first come, first served.

2:45 to 3:00 p.m.


3:00 to 4:15 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions D

  • Playful Partnerships: Children, Artists and Sharing Knowledge
    Michelle Blodgett, Program Developer, Minnesota Children’s Museum
    Amie Pence, VSA Arts of Minnesota
    Minnesota Children’s Museum’s patrons met, created and were inspired with the guest artist from VSA Arts of Minnesota Arts Ambassadors. This partnership brought in artists with disabilities for interactive activities with children focused on music, movement and visual arts to the Museum’s Rooftop Artpark. The Museum is continuing the partnership with VSA Arts of Minnesota to design a training workshop for staff and advising on the creation of a First Friday program to reach children and families with disabilities. Come join us as we discuss children, artists and playful partnerships.
  • The Neighborhood Forum: Building a More Literate Twin Cities
    David Stevens, Public Programs Coordinator, Mill City Museum, Minnesota Historical Society
    Lynne Burke, Children’s Literacy Liason/Reach Out and Read MN Coordinator, Hennepin County Medical Center
    Lisa Bugman, Community Relations Consultant, Thrivent Financial
    Learn about a unique group of nonprofit, corporate and public institutions in Minneapolis named the Neighborhood Forum: how it organized, why it adopted literacy as a common goal, and what disparate organizations bring to a collaborative event, the Go Read Day family reading festival. This event has boosted Mill City Museum attendance during an otherwise slow time of year and the museum has developed historical programming that supports the event’s literacy theme. The panel will discuss the challenges of creating a program that supports the mission and goals of all of the participating organizations.
  • “Goldie’s Treasures”- a Cultural Walking Tour on the U of M St. Paul Campus
    Staff of the Goldstein Gallery, Bell Museum of Natural History, and University of Minnesota Raptor Center
    From 1:45-2:45 pm and from 3 -4 pm, visit one of three sites nearby to enjoy staff presenting about gems in their collections. Sign up at morning registration; first come, first served.

4:15 to 4:30 p.m.

Raffle Prizes announced (must be present to win)


After-Conference Mixer

Monday May 19 at 4:45 – 7PM
Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life
2097 West Larpenteur Avenue, Falcon Heights

The Gibbs Museum and Minnesota Association of Museums (MAM) invite you to an informal get-together open to all. Enjoy wine, beer, light hors d’oeuvres and homemade ice cream along with the company of your colleagues, all while taking in the history and beauty of the Gibbs Museum. If weather permits, grab a glass of wine and head outside on a guided stroll through the unique Gibbs Heritage Orchard in bloom and other historic Dakotah and pioneer sites. This is a great opportunity to continue the collaborative discussions started during the day at the 2008 MAM Meeting. (The Mixer is also open to museum professionals and volunteers not attending the meeting)

The Gibbs Museum is less than 1 mile from the conference site. From the CECC parking lot (Lot S-104), go west on Buford Avenue. Take a right on Cleveland Avenue (travel north). After crossing Larpenteur Avenue, take the first left into the Gibbs Museum parking lot. Directions

Free parking! Go to the Red Barn to check-in.

Admission: $10 for MAM members; $15 for non-members.

Please sign up in advance by calling Peter Olson at 651-225-6037, or e-mail polson@mcm.org. Cash and checks will be accepted at the event.

This week (last Sunday, really) marks the 150th anniversary of MN statehood.  There will be music and fireworks at the capitol next weekend, and one of only a few extant versions of the Declaration of Independence will be on display at the History Center.

I was very pleased to hear (as the Monitor reported) that the Sesquicentennial Commission is recognizing that for many indigenous residents of Minnesota, statehood is not a celebration, but a commemoration and an occasion for mourning.  The Sesquicentennial Advisory Committee for Native American Partnering has an excellent blog, with commentary on important stories and events about native Minnesotans during the sesquicentennial year, like the interruption this weekend of the wagon train at Fort Snelling, commentary on the Dakota War and the calls for an official apology to American Indians in Minnesota for the terrible injustices perpetrated against them in the past 150 years (and earlier). May is American Indian Month in Minnesota, and this commemoration of our statehood is an important opportunity to think about what it means to share the land and work deeply on issues of reconciliation and justice for all Minnesotans.  As public historians, we have a responsibility to make room for and facilitate discource on what Minnesota’s 150th means.

To celebrate both Nurses’ Week and Minnesota’s 150th birthday, the Hennepin County Medical Center History Museum and the Metropolitan Medical Center Historical Library are putting up a special exhibit, “Hospital Stories:  150 Years of Minneapolis Health Care.”  We trace the history of hospitals in Minneapolis from Cottage Hospital in 1870 to the present, talking about people and noting dynamic changes in hospital organization and in training for nursing, medical and other staff.  The exhibit is supported by a grant from the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission.

An open house is today, May 6, from 1-4 pm in the Blue 1 and Blue L lobbies of HCMC on 8th and Chicago in downtown Minneapolis.  The exhibit is spread across 4 locations on the HCMC campus:  Blue Lower Level atrium, Blue 1 lobby across from the Gift Shop, Orange 3 next to the cafeteria, and the Purple Lobby near the pharmacy, and will be up through May and June.  Come visit!

The library formerly known as the Minneapolis Public Library has some exhibit internships available.  They’re unpaid, and you have to be a student–but you get to work with extremely nice people in a lovely building with great collections.  My suggestion for a project:  convince the county library board to rename the Central Library the Countryman Branch.

Hennepin County Library has two internships available, one for Summer 2008 and one for Fall 2008. Each internship is part-time with a commitment of approximately 60-150 hours per academic term. The work hours are flexible and may require some evening or weekend hours.The Curatorial Intern will work under direct supervision of the Partnerships Coordinator for Arts and Business. A mentor will be assigned to the Intern from the Hennepin County Library Exhibition Review Committee. The Intern will assist with planning and implementing the exhibition program at Minneapolis Central Library. The Intern will work with library staff and community partners.

Depending on the Intern’s background and skills, projects that the Intern may work on are:


- Create a scale model of the Cargill Gallery and furnishings
– Update the community library exhibit spaces web page to include the Southeast Library
– Alexander Hamilton exhibit: work with library staff to research and gather related materials from our collection, design display for materials in gallery vitrines, write and make labels; exhibit opens late August
– Assist with de-installation of Sesquicentennial exhibit mid-August and assist with summer exhibit programs June and July


 Update:  I hate the new wordpress admin interface.

The 51st Annual Midwest Junto for the History of Science was held last weekend here at Minnesota.  Here’s a report from Steph, and one from Nathan.  There was a real diversity of presentations and research areas, as well as some geographic diversity, with our usual folks from Minnesota, Wisconsin, various places in Missouri, Iowa State and Oklahoma, and visitors from elsewhere  around the Midwest and the country.  My paper went well, fyi, and I got lots of great questions.

Some standout papers:

  • Samuel Spence, from Oklahoma, talked about the role of the sf writer Jerry Pournelle in the development of Reagan’s Star Wars project.
  • Judith Kaplan from Wisconsin gave a paper on James Henry Breasted, the Egyptologist who founded the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.  I don’t know anything about the history of Egyptology (at least after Napoleon) and found it a totally fascinating story.
  • Krystal Rose from Eastern Illinois spoke on the course of the 1918 flu pandemic in rural Illinois, with particular attention to how it progressed in the local newspapers.  Comics in the local papers provided jokes about the flu, eg:  Did you hear that they quarantined the library?  They found influenza in the dictionary!
  • Amy Bix talked about the gendering of home repair, from household equipment classes at land-grant universities to pink hammers.

Also worth mentioning was the presentation of Eric Ward of the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City (home of next year’s Junto), who discussed a book setting scientific color standards for ornithology; the LHL has digitized the book, and it’s online.  They also have online a great collection of star atlases and materials relating to the building of the Panama Canal.  Next year in Kansas City!

Come one, come all to the Midwest Junto for the History of Science, the regional history of science/technology/medicine conference, held this weekend at the University of Minnesota.

The program is not online as yet, so I can’t point you to it, but suffice it to say that there will be lots of terrific and diverse papers on Saturday April 5 and Sunday, April 6.  All papers will be given in EE-CSCI 3-230 (Electrical and Computing Engineering, University of Minnesota, East Bank, on Washington Ave).

I’ll be talking on Sunday morning.  Here’s the plan of my session:

Session 2:         20th Century Medicine

10:30-10:55 a.m.:    Suzanne Fischer (University of Minnesota)
“’Say ‘Yes’ to the General’: How Advertising and Organizing Saved a Hospital.”

10:55-11:20 a.m.:    Cara Kinzelman (University of Minnesota)
“Twilight Sleep and the Professionalization of Obstetrics.”

11:20-11:45 a.m.:    Krystal Rose (Eastern Illinois University)
“Called to Death: A Case Study on the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Coles County, Illinois.”

11:45-12:10 a.m.:    Kirstin Lawson (University of Missouri)
“Healthcare as a Citizen’s Right: Public Health at the Hayward Indian School, Wisconsin, 1901-1920.”

I’ll be talking about how Minneapolis General Hospital became Hennepin County General Hospital.  One reason to come to my talk is that I’m going to play a record on my 1980s portable record player.

Stick around for the rest of the afternoon on Sunday, and you can hear a talk by my pal Christine:

2:10-2:35 p.m.:    Christine Manganaro (University of Minnesota)
“Race Biology in Hawaii: Harry L. Shapiro, the Station for Racial Research, and the Chinese-Hawaiian Project, 1920-1937

You can still register for the conference by contacting Jole Shackelford at shack001@maroon.tc.umn.edu.

Last week (or was it the week before?) I spent a number of pleasant hours over several days judging exhibits for Minnesota History Day.  History Day is a national contest, sort of a science fair for history, where kids grades 6-12 make exhibits, documentary films, performances, research papers, and (new this year) websites around a yearly theme, and compete at school, regional, state and national levels.  History Day is a big deal here in Minnesota, thanks to the combined behemoths of the U and the MHS, and Minnesotan kids regularly place at nationals.  (I never heard of History Day till I came to Minnesota.  I poked around to see when Michigan started having History Day, since it seems inconceivable that the teachers at my high school wouldn’t have pushed us to do it, but I couldn’t discover the date.)  Anyway, it’s a great program, pushing kids to really learn how to do research and learn how rewarding it is to be an expert on something.  Apparently the MHS’s research has showed that visiting an academic library, particularly, was a transformative educational experience for the junior historians.  I’m generally not super interested in K-12 education, so enjoying judging History Day so much was a transformative experience for me too!

This year’s theme was Conflict and Compromise in History, which meant lots of World War II projects.  I judged Juniors Exhibits, which means three-fold posterboards, and some were excellent, and some were less so.  (The judging forms have only three categories, good, excellent, and superior, so all the projects were ‘good.’)

Since History Day focuses on use of primary sources, there were lots of recent American history projects.  It was terrific to hear a student exclaim over going to the library and holding the real copies of Time Magazine from the 1970s.  With increased digitization of print resources, it’s becoming more exciting to be in the presence of authenticity–which is of course what museums and special collections will continue to offer.  (Of course, I’m a little jaded from spending my last however-many years reading pamphlets from the 1890s about syphilis.)  Here I thought it was charming.

Some projects were rather lacking in contextualization (like the project on a particular famous person from WW2 that mentioned “some guy named Hitler”) and some projects were entirely amazing (for instance, a project on the war in the Aleutians) and would stand up to anything a professional historian produces.  We should be recruiting these kids for our museums and our public history graduate programs!  Having a history-literate population helps everyone.  History Day proves to both kids and jaded judges that it can also be fun and even exciting to be a historian.

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