BEST MUSEUM - 2001
The Minnesota Historical Society
The Minnesota Historical Society is a wise old uncle of a museum, sitting on the back porch watching the world pass by. After all, the society, which predates Minnesota's acceptance into the Union by a good nine years, has pretty much seen it all--from fur trappers and log rollers to railroad barons and rim cities. Today the Minnesota Historical Society History Center Museum--a block-size complex completed in 1992 and situated between the architectural landmarks of the cathedral and the Capitol--is best understood if you consider that it is not just a museum, but a living resource that stretches through time. Sure, the museum is laden with mildly annoying (and standard-issue) isn't-it-weird-how-they-lived-back-then exhibitions, but the place is more than a sop for class trips. The museum is a repository for history, holding more than 900,000 artifacts and historical items, such as Ann Bancroft's gear from her recent Antarctic adventures, for future exhibitions. It also maintains a massive collection of more than 800,000 books, manuscripts, photos, and the like in its library, and operates a number of historical sites throughout the state. The society produces 20-odd books each year at its press, publishes Minnesota History magazine each month, and maintains an extensive online collection of resources (including a massive catalog of neighborhood photos from around the Cities). Finally, the society organizes innovative special exhibitions--on Minnesota music history, for example--and commissions and purchases new work by local artists. So set yourself down at this old uncle's knee; you're bound to learn something.