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Minnesota History

Apr 18, 2017 01:19PM, Published by Anne Brataas, Categories: News



Gallery: Minnesota History Center highlights [3 Images] Click any image to expand.



By Sammie Garrity
Boreal Corps Editor
Family Field Trip Recommendation


When I went to St. Paul in March and visited the Minnesota History Center we saw everything from the oldest book owned by the Minnesota History Center, written in 1492, to maps from the 1700s that have made-up islands in Lake Superior on them. Explorers and map makers did this in the early days when they were trying to impress their sponsors in "New France," which is what French colonies in North America were called.

Our tour guide was Patrick Coleman, Curator of Antiquarian Books for the Minnesota Historical Society.  He started out by taking us to the storage room in the basement of the History Center. It had 100,000 square feet of every mark that people in Minnesota history had made on paper.

For me, as an avid reader with a love for literature, it was pure amazement.

Inventive Mapmaking
We learned that a French mapmaker took a map and claimed that there was a clear way across the continent! It turns out that where he had put a river, the Rocky Mountains were in the way. He didn’t actually go that far in real life, so he did not know that there were mountains there. He was trying to make it look easy.

Imagine if people called him up and were just like, “Hey dude, where you said that there was a river, there is actually a mountain range. Can you clear this up?”  I laughed when I imagined this.

Another French mapmaker in 1755  invented three islands in Lake Superior, which he named after his boss, to get on the good side of his boss. Benjamin Franklin discovered his lie, and when he was negotiating boundaries between U.S. and Canada said that he would take Isle Royale and Canada could have the other three islands--which didn't exist. When people found out they were very angry. They stopped using that map entirely, but not before the mistakes showed up on so many different maps.

Civil War Newspapers
At the Minnesota History Center there was even a newspaper that was printed in Missouri during the Civil War. Because it was in the middle of The Civil War people had no food and had taken to eating rats. There was almost no resources to make a newspaper, so they printed the paper on wallpaper. You can see the wallpaper patterns still. The enemy would print jabs at the southerners and claim the General Grant is going to take over. They got so mad that their life was pretty much being taken away. As most can imagine, that must be pretty frustrating.

History Told By A House
Another cool thing we did was take a tour of an old model home recreated inside the History Center. It had speakers on some exhibits,  and printed articles to read and fun things to do, touch and see everywhere. A section on children's games had hopscotch and pin drop, but also had a recorded narrative by a speaker telling about her experience in a fire.

Hands-on Enrichment
We did all sorts of fun activities that are very hands-on. It was an amazing experience and I hope to do it again soon. I believe that everybody should do something like this at least once in their lives as to enrich their knowledge. I know it did mine!


Minnesota Fire Danger
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here