The  third weekend in April continues to be excessively popular for conferences in our (dear museum/history-inclined reader!) fields, which this year includes Museums and the Web and NCPH (which looks like a terrific meeting in Ottawa this year.)

I will be attending neither of these, but will instead be attending this conference in Minneapolis, “Practicing Science, Engaging Publics,” in honor of my graduate advisor, Sally Gregory Kohlstedt.  It’s a one-day event on April 20th, free and open to the public, and if you’re in the area I highly suggest you stop by!

I will be talking about my research on this guy, and my academic siblings will be talking about other interesting topics around the history of biology, history of anthropology and field work, popularization, and professionalization, all in Sally-inflected ways.  Hope to see you there.


I discovered yesterday (via the Minnesota Association of Museums on twitter) that the Minnesota Discovery Center (formerly Ironworld), the mining history center in Chisholm on the Iron Range, is closing as of today, and putting its 47 employees (26 fulltime) on “temporary layoff.”  It’s unclear if and when it will reopen.

Two years ago the state agency (Iron Range Resources) which used to run Ironworld helped spin off the museum/center as an independent nonprofit with a new name and helped establish an endowment for continuing operations, with transitional funding tapering over 5 years.  It’s a huge attraction (I’ve heard it described as a “mining theme park”) on 660 acres, with not only the museum but an important archives center.  The recession has hit the endowment hard (it dropped from 10M to 6M this year), and the museum can no longer make payroll.  Apparently revenue from the gate has been going up:

Revitalized programming within budget yielded a 15% increase in attendance figures despite cold weather, five months of highway construction, and an economy where tourism spending in northeastern Minnesota saw double digit declines.

–but that has not been enough to offset the endowment decline and lack of state funding.

The scariest part of  the Duluth News Tribune report on the venue’s closing is this:

Efforts are underway to make sure the facilities don’t freeze while closed.

I really worry for the collections at Ironworld as winter rolls in.  The museum’s artifact collections are good, but the archives in particular are an extensive and unparalleled repository of life and work on the Range.  I hope that the board is able to regroup and reopen the facility as soon as possible;  and if not, that collections held in the public trust are transferred to another public history institution (ie, the MHS).  In this transition period, please take care of your collections, Minnesota Discovery Center.  They touch your visitors’ lives.


 “Suzanne Fischer will defend her dissertation, “Diseases of Men: Sexual Health and Medical Expertise in Advertising Medical Institutes, 1900-1930,” on Monday, May 18, in Physics 236A, beginning at 1:00 pm.

All members of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Program [and everyone else] are invited to attend her opening presentation (about 20 to 30 minutes, including questions), and then the examining will convene in private for the examination.”

I’ve still got a foot planted on the other side of Lake Superior.  Here’s the news from the history community back in Minnesota.

The MHS has a $2.8 million budget hole, and, besides extending a hiring freeze and cutting expenses, is going to require some employees to take unpaid leave.  The problem is related to the down economy and the drying up of state funding.  At least the Global Hotdish Variety Show is still going strong!  We’re all rooting for you, MHS.

Relatedly, the MHS’s History Matters history advocacy day at the capitol is Feb 16.

Plans and structures for allocating the money from the Outdoor Heritage Amendment fractional sales tax passed in November.  About 20% will go to arts and cultural organizations, around $50 million a year.  Minnesota local historians have been talking about plans for possible funding.

I’ve scoured the corners of the internet to bring you this link roundup!

If you live in Minnesota, remember to vote yes for the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.  This is PH’s official endorsement for the election season.

Congrats to the Brooklyn Museum for winning a Forrester Groundswell award!

A new Michigan-based booklet on rehabbing historic properties.

Will your data survive the digital dark age?

Todd has been posting about Detroit bicycling history.

LibraryThing is organizing a “cataloguing flash mob” at a church in the Boston area with historical book collections.  What a great idea!  It’s like a metadata barn raising.

Fascinating show on collections and collectors at a museum in Poland.

And, from the How Did I Beat Rob McDougall to Posting This department:  an amazing online exhibit of spirit photography!

The American Association for State and Local History’s annual meeting is happening this week in Rochester, NY, and you can look in on the meeting virtually through the AASLH’s great annual meeting blog. I’m really heartened by this trend of conference blogging, even for organizations that don’t have much interactive web presences. At the AASLH blog you can learn about conference sessions, meetings, field trips to local history sites, and what local historians are talking about in the elevators. The AASLH has a team of bloggers from local history organizations across the country, including Minnesota’s own Local History Services head honcho, David Grabitske.

While you’re in Rochester, local historians, you should check out my favorite special collections, at the Miner Library at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Tell ’em I sent you.

Since I’ve been talking about museums in an election year, I’ll put in another plug for Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, on the ballot this November to create a dedicated funding stream for environmental and cultural programs. The folks from the campaign have been busy recently, with a poster contest, a film contest, and a supercharged booth at the State Fair (since they’re asking people to be “Minnesota heroes” in November, people could play Guitar Hero at the booth). Check out their website for more information.

I think the referendum is a great idea, and of course I’d like dedicated funding for the environment and cultural programs, but I do wish there was more emphasis on history. Originally it was called the “Great Outdoors and Heritage Amendment,” which I liked a lot. History is missing in this new formulation (except as part of “legacy,” which is a little mealy-mouthed), and I haven’t seen much outreach to people in the state’s local history community (of which I was a part up to last week, remember), who could be great advocates for this. But do vote for the amendment, and do join the campaign on facebook and other social networking sites, and, if you’re so moved, make a video for Yes for MN’s contest about how important local history is to the state of Minnesota. I would be happy to post any videos about local history here.

Catching up on my local history reading, I found that in the May-June issue of the Minnesota History Interpreter, I’m quoted talking about the value of architectural remnants in the collections of my old museum.  And that quote in turn is from a blog comment from last August.  I’m certainly glad that they could use the information, and I sound pretty eloquent, but what a surprise!

The Daily Planet is reporting that the Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program is facing hassles and hurdles from a newly reorganized Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  The details from the vociferous public meeting at the Daily Planet; here’s a primer on the MAEP.

The MAEP is a democratic, self-governing exhibition program that is horizontal rather than hierarchical in its structure. A panel of artists elected by the program’s membership of artists curates five shows per year. Since 1977, the program has been administered by Stewart Turnquist, a museum staff coordinator who has reported directly to the museum director—putting him on an equal footing with the museum’s other curators. Two galleries in the museum’s new Target Wing are dedicated to MAEP exhibitions. The autonomous, artist-run program is unique to museums in this country, and it has operated smoothly since its inception as a pilot program in 1975.

Turnquist has recently resigned.

Also in the Daily Planet, Pipestone’s Hiawatha festival is celebrating its 60th and last year.  This was a re-enactment of Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” in this small SW Minnesota town.  The festival is ending as a result of Pipestone’s declining population and growing disinclination to mount a 125-person pageant every year.   Pipestone may be familiar to readers of this blog as the subject of Sally Southwick’s Building on a Borrowed Past:  Place and Identity in Pipestone, MN, which analyzed and indicted the town’s appropriation of native culture for touristic purposes.  Though the “Song of Hiawatha” (which you can’t help thinking of while riding around south Minneapolis; we have the Longfellow neighborhood, Lake Nokomis, Lake Hiawatha, Minnehaha Creek) is less virulently awful than some other portrayals of First Minnesotans, it has no place as the center of a public festival.   60 years was too long a run.

Lastly, did you know that Liberia recently convened Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings?  They were in St. Paul.

The Charles Babbage Institute at the U of M has a great exhibit up now, Gendered Bits: Identities, Artifacts and Practices in Computing, put up in conjunction with their recent conference on gender, history and computing.  (See some pictures) The exhibit is superawesome and will be up till July 23rd at Andersen Hall on the West Bank of the U in Minneapolis.  Run, don’t walk! You only have a few days left to check it out!

Also in news from CBI, they’ve posted full scans of the full run of the early internet journal Connexions: The interoperability report. They are definitely worth a visit to see internet pioneers debating IP, learning about internetworking around the world, and groaning at poems by Vint Cerf about ARPANET. (I personally scanned the whole thing last summer, so please drop over and read some of this great stuff.)   And on the CBI blog, Steph has been writing a series about a day in the life of an archivist.  There are many reasons to use and support this vital resource for the history of computing.

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