Special Collections Newsletter - February 2023

hennepin county library special collections

February 2023

Check out what’s new and noteworthy this month in Special Collections!

New Staff and 2023 Projects

Special Collections welcomed many new and several returning faces in January. Abbey Hemken (profiled in our March 2022 newsletter) began her role as the new full time Digitization and Archival Processing Specialist. Abbey is already hard at work integrating thousands of government documents into our Minneapolis History Collection, inventorying our collections, digitizing house plan magazines, processing archival collections, and continuing digitization and metadata for city of Minneapolis photographs.

Additionally, we welcomed three returning project workers and three new project workers to our team. Grant-funded projects this year include a continuation of the Neighborhood Archival Processing and Minneapolis Newspaper Photograph Digitization projects, and four new projects: Digitization of the Minneapolis and Hennepin County Library photographs, archival processing of the library organizational records, digitization of photographs in the neighborhood association collections, and archival processing of the photographs of the Hennepin County Communication and Engagement Services Department.


Photo: Hennepin County Library bookmobile parked at a rural farm, circa 1930s. Thousands of photographs will be added to the HCL Organizational Records in the Digital Collections throughout the year.

Upcoming Events

Researching the History of Your Home

Learn about the historical resources at the library and across the county that will help you piece together a history of your Minneapolis house, neighborhood or property. We’ll explain and demonstrate resources, emphasizing online resources in the Digital Collections that will allow you to jump-start your research from home – including permit records, maps, city directories, photos and more. This class is best suited for researching properties in the city of Minneapolis, though some resources will be county-wide.Click to edit this placeholder text.

Register online for one of the following sessions.


Meet Special Collections Volunteer Dave Carlson


Dave Carlson at Haleakala Crater National Park in Hawaii in March 2022.

Dave started volunteering in Special Collections in fall of 2018, after meeting our Archivist, Jenna, earlier that year. He was interested in working with the library to preserve recordings of video programs created by Hennepin County Library in the 1980s and 90s, many of which he produced (he was HCL’s Video Producer at the Ridgedale Library TV Studio from 1984-1995). He began by organizing the videos, then after they were digitized, he worked on, and continues to work on descriptive metadata about each episode. Dave began working in video production when portable video recording and editing equipment was in its infancy. He worked for several Minnesota organizations, including HCL and the Minnesota Zoo, before retiring in 2017. Dave is an outdoor enthusiast who especially enjoys bicycling, cross-country skiing, hiking and backpacking, mountain climbing, and kayaking. He loves seeing live music and is an avid traveler—he regularly visits Colorado and his seasonal lakeside cottage in Central Minnesota, but has also visited most of the U.S. states and a number of countries in Europe, Asia and South America.

Q: Tell us a bit about your time as an employee of Hennepin County Library.

A: While at HCL, we produced a wide variety of informational, public interest, special event, orientation and training video programs, many recorded at the Ridgedale Library TV Studio that was originally shared with a cable television public access facility. In conjunction with the metropolitan library systems, we developed and produced several long-running TV series that aired in primetime on Metro Cable Channel Six and included BOOKS PLUS Library Resources, NORTHERN LIGHTS Minnesota Author Interviews, ALL ABOUT KIDS! Children and Family Issues, and A DISCUSSION WITH National Authors on Tour. We also did a series of TV Public Service Announcements about library services, and had some programs distributed nationally by the American Library Association.

Q: What’s your favorite library video? Is there a particular episode you’ve found amusing?

A: I am particularly proud of the “Recollections: History of the HCL Bookmobile” documentary program. And I enjoyed meeting and recording a number of interesting and high-profile authors, politicians, community leaders and others on our television series.

Q: What’s your favorite part about working with archives and local history?

A: I very much enjoy and appreciate the historical resources that are preserved in archival collections here at HCL and in historical societies and museums. It is important to honor, understand and experience our past culture and way of life.

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

A: Time Travel? Actually, I am pretty satisfied living in the current times with the incredible societal and cultural changes, advances in technology and medical/health, and the ability to travel all over the world.

In the Archives: New Acquisitions


Ernie Crippen WWII Photographs

Seven photo albums of snapshots taken by Ernie Crippen during his World War II naval service. As part of a Seabees unit, Crippen served at the Battle of Guadalcanal. After the war's end, he was stationed in Japan and the Kodiak Islands until he was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1948. Most photos were taken in Japan. The albums join other records of Crippen's wartime service, which are already in our collections.

Field Regina Northrop Neighborhood Group, Inc. Records

Minutes, program files, and other organizational documents. Field Regina Northrop Neighborhood Group is the official neighborhood organization for three south Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Helen E. Blaisdell Papers

Correspondence, account books, school notes, and other documents belonging to Helen Blaisdell. Blaisdell was a teacher at both North and South high schools. Her family was early settlers in Minneapolis, and Blaisdell Avenue is named in their honor. Helen Blaisdell died in 1974 at age 98.

New Digital Collection


Hennepin County Public Works Photographs 

Hundreds of photographs from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s of bridge, roadway and other Hennepin County public works projects, including many aerial views, as well as employees. The collection dates from the time when the Hennepin County Public Works department was also known as the Highway Department and operated out of a facility in Hopkins. View the collection online

Digital Collections Tips and Tricks: Using the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Sanborn maps chart the growth and development of cities and provide a wealth of information, such as building outline, footprint, and construction materials used. These large-scale plans, drawn at a scale of 50 feet to one inch, were created to assist fire insurance companies as they assessed the risk associated with insuring a particular property. The Minneapolis Sanborn maps consist of a 1912 base map, with pasted on additions and changes through about 1930. The set even includes some inner ring suburbs and Lake Minnetonka area cities.


1. Browse the Sanborn maps here.

2. Use the General Index in any volume to locate specific plates within each volume. Click the blue arrow icon in the upper right corner of the image to zoom into the map. Sections are color-coded for each volume (1-8) and groups of city blocks are numbered with plate numbers.

bEnter date

3. Open the volume you need and type the plate number into the “Search this record” box to quickly jump to desired plate. When you find your plate, click the blue arrow icon in the upper right corner of the image to zoom into the map.


More Sanborn map tips

  • Many landmarks including parks, lakes, churches, schools, hospitals, factories, bridges, and other buildings are identified in the descriptions of each plate. Search for these to quickly jump to a known landmark.
  • To find non-Minneapolis cities, browse all and use the filters on the left to narrow your results by city (at bottom of filter options).

Need help finding something in the Digital Collections? Email us!


Exhibits on View


Vaudeville on Hennepin

The Hennepin Theater District was the second largest Vaudeville circuit in the country during the first half of the 20th century. An exhibition of historic photos (many, including those above, from the autograph collections of our Special Collections) celebrates the 100 year anniversary of the Hennepin Theatre District and the actors, dancers, singers, acrobats, magicians and comedians who contributed to this exciting era of Hennepin Avenue’s history. Exhibit created by staff at the Hennepin Theatre Trust.

View the exhibit online, or check it out in person through March 26 in the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Jack Link’s Legend Lounge.

From the Blog


Ray’s Lynnhurst Addition and Untrustworthy Maps

Where is Ray’s Lynnhurst? Judging by the map above, the neighborhood is just south of Lake Harriet. But, is it? In reality, Ray’s Lynnhurst is located in Richfield, south of what is now the Crosstown Highway. In 1916, when this map was created, Ray’s Lynnhurst was well outside the Minneapolis city limits. A chunk of Richfield was added to Minneapolis in 1928, but Ray’s Lynnhurst was south even of that. So, why this distorted map?

Read more on our blog.

Come Visit Us


James K. Hosmer Special Collections

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55401


Hours: Monday - Thursday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

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. Photocopier and scanners are available. Please bring a flash drive to store your scanned images.

Photo: Inside the climate-controlled Special Collections vault, where rare books, negatives, and AV material is stored.

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