Special Collections newsletter - February 2022

hennepin county library special collections

February 2022

Greetings local history friends,

Check out what is new and noteworthy this month in Special Collections.

Over 200,000 digital items


Our Digital Collections passed another milestone recently – over 200,000 digital items! We now have 201,732 digitized items from our collections, including:

In 2021, 429,674 items in our Digital Collections were used in 205,350 online sessions by 154,038 unique patrons!

Our top 10 most popular collections in 2021 were:

  1. Hennepin County Yearbooks – 57,325 uses
  2. WWII Posters Collection – 47,298 uses
  3. Maps Collection – 27,891 uses
  4. City of Minneapolis Collection – 25,304 uses
  5. House Plans Collection – 23,927 uses
  6. Minneapolis Newspaper Photograph Collection – 23,380 uses
  7. Minneapolis Building Permit Index Cards Collection – 20,411 uses
  8. Hennepin History Museum Collection – 20,323 uses
  9. Menu Collection – 16,402 uses
  10. Minneapolis Public Schools Collection – 14,483 uses

Our top 5 largest collections are:

  1. Minneapolis Newspaper Photograph Collection – 74,373 items
  2. Minneapolis Lot Survey Collection – 52,146 items
  3. City of Minneapolis Collection – 31,059 items
  4. Hennepin History Museum Collection – 8,201 items
  5. Charles Bartholomew Collection – 4,201 items

Meet Special Collections staff member Katie Falbo


Katie started volunteering in Special Collections in September 2014 and was hired part time in April 2015.

She is currently working as a project worker on the Minneapolis Newspaper Photograph Collection digitization project doing metadata, scanning, and preservation work.


Q: Why did you start volunteering in Special Collections?

A: When we relocated to Minneapolis in the spring of 2010, I visited the Central branch multiple times a week with my children in tow as a way to acclimate ourselves to our new city. Once the kids were enrolled in school and preschool, I missed being in the building so much that I wanted to find a way to spend time there and say thank you. Special collections was looking for volunteers so that's where I ended up!

Q: Weirdest subject heading you've used?

A: The weirdest subject I've used is probably 'Working Cats.' I've personally only used it once (P43825), but I'm always looking out for more photos to include with that subject heading.

Another strange one is 'School children -- Health and hygiene.' The portraits of the Bryn Mawr students with perfect teeth are fascinating to me.

My favorite subject heading is 'Canning and preserving.' There's something very comforting about looking through images of locals holding their precious fruits and vegetables. The process and equipment of canning remains the same decades later, but the time I spend setting and styling my hair and pressing my apron has certainly decreased.

Q: Favorite place in Minneapolis or Hennepin County?

A: Wood Lake Nature Center

Q: If you lived in Minneapolis in the 1930s/40s, what do you think you would have been in the newspaper for/or what would you have liked to have been in the newspaper for?

A: It seems like on slow days the newspapers would just send a staff photographer around to local hospitals to see if there were any injured kids to photograph. So, I probably would have been featured for the time I had my two fingers slammed in big, heavy wooden doors at the entrance to my grammar school or the time I flipped over the handlebars of my bright yellow banana seat Schwinn bicycle after hitting the curb while trying to make a left while eating a Choco Taco on my way home from summer camp.

New finding aids


Erle Reiter Papers

Born in Minneapolis in 1916, Erle Reiter was one of the top American figure skaters of the 1930s. Reiter won the silver medal three times at the U.S. National Championships and competed for the United States at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmich-Partenkirchen, Germany. Notable items in the papers include Reiter's handwritten competition programs and drawings (showing the order and technique of his skating programs), items used by Reiter during his competition at the 1936 Olympics, and many commemorative programs from skating events across North America in the 1930s.
View finding aid.

Iric Nathanson Minneapolis Community Development interviews 

Transcripts from 15 interviews conducted between 1990 and 2008 by local author and historian Iric Nathanson with individuals involved in the Minneapolis Community Development movement.
View finding aid.

Melvin Roy Swensen Prisoner of War Postcards 


 Newspaper clippings and postcards sent by First   Lieutenant Melvin Roy Swensen to his family in   Minneapolis. Swensen was a Japanese prisoner   of war from 1942 to 1945. The postcards are   forms issued by the Imperial Japanese Army with   short messages from Swensen and were the
 only messages the Swensen family received   while Melvin was a prisoner.
 View finding aid.

Recent acquisitions


Over 200 more yearbooks

Special Collections recently purchased over 225 Hennepin County yearbooks from a local yearbook collector. The acquisition mostly fills gaps for schools already a part of our yearbook collection, but also includes yearbooks from about twenty schools new to our collection—like Edina's Concord and Cornelia Elementary Schools, Bloomington's Penn and Oak Grove Jr. Highs, Richfield East and West Jr. High, Plymouth Jr. High, and more. Elementary, middle/junior high, and high school yearbooks are all included as are public and private schools. The acquisition is particularly strong for schools in Hennepin County suburbs including Bloomington, Edina, Hopkins, Mound, Osseo, Plymouth, and Richfield, but also includes several Minneapolis elementary and junior highs. All newly acquired yearbooks published before 1989 will be digitized and available online later this year in the Hennepin County Yearbook Collection. Browse our print holdings.

Have a yearbook you’d like to donate to the collection? Contact us!

From the blog


Clyde Bellecourt and the American Indian Movement 

Clyde Bellecourt, activist and one of the most important leaders of the American Indian Movement, died of cancer on January 11, 2022 at his home in Minneapolis. Read more about AIM and Clyde Bellecourt on our blog.

In-person and remote research


Special Collections is now open Monday through Thursday 9am-4:30pm. Appointments are not necessary, but you do need to call Special Collections or check-in at the 4th floor reference desk upon arrival for department access. You can speed up your visit by requesting materials be pulled in advance. Masks are currently required regardless of vaccination status.

Don’t forget, even though Special Collections is now open, we can still help you with your research needs remotely. Need a scan of a book chapter from the Minneapolis History Collection? Looking for newspaper articles on a topic? Need a city directory look-up? We are here to help.

Photo: Emergency call box on Nicollet Mall, 1968

Email specialcoll@hclib.org or call 612-543-8200.

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