150 years of state history showcased

A library exhibit celebrates Minnesota’s approaching sesquicentennial on May 11.

As Minnesota’s 150th birthday approaches May 11, the University libraries’ department of Archives and Special Collections has organized an array of historic maps, photos, documents and artwork for viewing.

“Becoming Minnesota: A Sesquicentennial Sampler” was first displayed at the state fair last summer and has been brought to the public once again at the University’s Elmer L. Andersen Library until March 12.

While the state’s entire history isn’t jam-packed into the small room, it provides a taste of the century-and-a-half history of the country’s 32nd state.

Kris Kiesling of the department of Archives and Special Collections oversaw the exhibit’s organization.

“(The exhibit) was designed to represent the history of the state as it’s represented in our collections,” she said. “It was not meant to be all-encompassing in any way.”

The collected items come from a dozen different contributors, including the Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature and the Children’s Literature Research Collection.

The exhibit includes six themes: exploration and discovery, people, recreation, business and agriculture, education and the arts.

On display is a map of Minnesota before it declared its statehood that dates back to the 17th century and paintings of American Indian leaders of the time.

Documents and photos of legendary Minnesotans, including James Ford Bell, who founded General Mills in 1928 and Nobel Peace Prize-winning alumnus Norman Borlaug are also displayed.

Ann Bancroft, who was the first woman to reach both the North and South poles, can be seen proudly claiming her triumph in the snow.

Bronko Nagurski, a Gopher football player from 1927 to 1929, is photographed in gear ready for a tackle. Nagurski was the only player to ever be named All-American for two positions in the same year: fullback on offense and tackle on defense.

Many Minnesotans associate the literary world of the Land of 10,000 Lakes with author F. Scott Fitzgerald, but “Becoming Minnesota” highlights successful children’s literature.

The classic “Betsy-Tacy” children’s book, set in Mankato, is remembered, as is a children’s story recreating the capture of the Jesse James-Younger Gang in Northfield in 1876.

Professor Karen Nelson Hoyle, curator of the Children’s Literature Research Collections, said Minnesota has a long line of successful literary figures.

“There were authors at the turn of the century,” she said. “And there are authors today.”

But not all documents embody Nobel Peace Prize winners and American outlaws, as Minnesota’s history includes more than that.

The exhibit includes a plethora of average Minnesotans enjoying Minnesota weather.

Black-and-white photographs of figure skating, broom hockey and the St. Paul ice palace are reminders that activities haven’t changed all that much over the past several decades.

Black, Chinese, Jewish, American Indian and GLBT history is also represented in “Becoming Minnesota.”

Karla Davis, coordinator of the Givens Collection of African American Literature, said Minnesota has more than just a Scandinavian history.

“Minnesota is a little more diverse than people give it credit for,” she said.