Special Collections newsletter - March 2022

hennepin county library special collections

March 2022

Greetings local history friends,

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

City Images Grant Project Wraps Up


Hennepin County Library’s City Images project is winding up this month. The $82,000 grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, by way of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), will be spent out by the end of the month. Project workers Abbey Hemken, Mary Lodu and Stephen Taylor have digitized over 40,000 images from various departments of the City of Minneapolis. Over 32,000 of these have been loaded to our Digital Collections, with more being added each month.

This collection includes images of houses, buildings, bridges, railroads, billboards, traffic signs and signals, street scenes, aerial views and construction projects, as well as photos of city officials and employees, and average citizens. The time period ranges from the early 20th century to the early 2000s and includes everything from construction photos of the original Third Avenue Bridge to a 1998 zoning code survey of commercial buildings around the city. The City of Minneapolis Collection is one of our most heavily used digital resources, with over 25,000 items used in 2021. Our thanks to our project workers and CLIR for making this rich collection available to the public!

Meet Special Collections Staff Member Abbey Hemken


Abbey started as an intern in the library’s Preservation department in 2019. She was later hired for a short-term scanning project in 2020 and most recently has been working as a project worker on the CLIR grant project, digitizing the City of Minneapolis Collection. Abbey has a degree in history from Iowa State University and is currently a student in the Master of Library & Information Science program at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Born in Iowa, she currently lives in Robbinsdale.

Q: What is something interesting you have learned about Minneapolis since you started working on this project?

A: I recently moved to Minneapolis, so started my project with very little knowledge of the city. It has been very interesting to learn about entire neighborhoods and districts that were completely razed and rebuilt in the last century. For example, I was surprised to learn about the old Gateway District downtown that was once filled with grand buildings such as the Great Northern Railway Station, Gateway Park, and the Nicollet Hotel. Processing these photos feels like uncovering a ghost city of the past.

Q: Favorite place in Minneapolis or Hennepin County?

A: I love the riverfront trails along the Prospect Park/East River Road neighborhood. It's especially beautiful as the leaves change in fall and the green space offers a break from the noise of city life. I also got engaged along these trails last year—so it holds a special place in my heart.

Q: If you could transport yourself to another time in history, when would you choose and why?

A: If I could visit any time period, it would be the 1950s. Mainly I want to experience the beautiful fashion of that decade. But in addition, World War II was over, and the country was in a season of prosperity. At the same time, the nation was struggling with the Cold War and race tensions. I find the dichotomy between the highs and the lows of that decade to be fascinating.

Unprocessed Collections Now Listed Online


Many new donations and collections waiting to be organized by Special Collections staff are now discoverable online. If you find something that might help in your research, contact Special Collections staff for more information about accessing the materials. Browse unprocessed collections.

New in the Archives


New Finding Aids

Jack Kotthoff World War II Papers

Scrapbook compiled by Jack Kotthoff during his European service in World War II and documents from the Battery C 217th and Battery B 49th veterans' organization from the late 1940s to the early 2000s. The scrapbook contains black and white photographs and other mementos of Kotthoff's Army service in Iceland, Scotland, England, France, Belgium, and the Rhineland.
View finding aid.

E.L.E.C.T. Records

Newspaper clipping copies, correspondence, a few photographs, and press releases documenting the efforts of Emergency Lakes Environmental Coalition Task Force (ELECT) to prevent hi-rise development on, formerly, Lake Calhoun (now Bde Maka Ska) between 1987 and 1990. The group created a coalition of neighborhood organizations, environmental organizations, and interested residents to oppose the proposed new addition to the Calhoun Beach Club. They succeed in limiting the height of the new building  and enacting city regulations to limit the height of buildings near the chain of lakes. The group disbanded in 1990.
View finding aid.

Recent Acquisition

Walter F. Bochnak Minneapolis Housing and Redevelopment Authority Commissioner Papers – Over 10 linear feet of records documenting Bochnak's service as an Minneapolis Housing and Redevelopment Authority (MHRA) commissioner in the 1970s, including materials on many city redevelopment plans of the era.

Transit Equity Through History


Metro Transit is hosting a Transit Equity through History exhibit at the Minneapolis Central Library during the month of March.

The exhibit shares a timeline of major events in Twin Cities’ transit history and goes into detail about how focusing on equity has become more and more important for the agency since it became public, in 1970.

The exhibit is on view in the first floor atrium display case and can be viewed anytime during the library's open hours. More info at metrotransit.org/transitequity

From the Blog


February - Black History Month - Johnson and Dean 

At the turn of the 20th century, Johnson and Dean were household names. Charles E. Johnson and his wife, Dora Dean, were among the world’s most famous vaudeville entertainers. They were the first African American couple to appear on Broadway. And they called Minneapolis home. Read more about Dora Dean and Charles Johnson on our blog

In-person and remote research

Special Collections is open Monday through Thursday 9 am - 4:30 pm. 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: Dead phone lines at the East Side Police Station, 1938

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

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