Special Collections Newsletter - August/September 2023

hennepin county library special collections

August/September 2023

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


We recently passed a milestone with over 250,000 items in our Digital Collections. Hennepin County Library has one of the largest digital repositories in Minnesota and is the state’s largest contributor to the Digital Public Library of America, surpassing contributions by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society! Not sure where to start with the Digital Collections? Try browsing by topic.


House history - black and white photos of homes

House history classes are back! Check out the events calendar for classes in September at Northeast Library, October at East Lake Library, and November at Arvonne Fraser Library.

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. Staff from Hennepin County Library's Special Collections will 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 located in the city of Minneapolis, though some county-wide resources will be discussed. Register online.

Meet Special Collections staff member HJ Hass

HJ Hass - Special Collections staff member

HJ Hass has been working as the Preservation Assistant for about three months now. They are responsible for prepping the commercial bindery shipment each month and assisting with book repairs and other day-to-day preservation projects. They’re currently working on a project to encapsulate fragile and damaged posters from the WWII Poster Collection in Special Collections.

HJ graduated from Coe College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) in May with a degree in English and Rhetoric. While there, they worked with a group of Coe students to produce a zine of poetry by incarcerated poets in collaboration with the University of Iowa Prison Writing Project. They also produced a weekly radio show! HJ enjoys listening to music, going to local shows, collecting vintage postcards, and “outdoor leisuring”. A special skill of theirs is ripping an apple in half with their hands—"It’s physics! Anyone can do it!” Here’s more from HJ:

Q: Have you found anything weird, unusual, or especially interesting in the materials you’ve encountered in Preservation?

A: I haven’t found anything too weird. We do get a lot of books in the bindery by a sci-fi author whose name I can’t remember, where the back cover of the book is just a giant glamour shot of her with no blurbs or book description? And it always makes me laugh. I did have to help Frank bring up the mummified cat from the vault which was a very interesting experience. I am glad we could treat it with care and intention to return it to where it originated from.

Q: Favorite Preservation tool you’ve seen or technique you’ve learned?

A: I can’t think of a singular tool that stands out to me, but it is interesting to me that so many preservation materials are just different/repurposed versions of everyday objects. For example, we use wooden skewers coated in glue to secure loose book hinges, and we use obscene amounts of what is literally just fancy paper tape to repair book pages, posters, periodicals etc. Of course, we use a lot of specialized tools as well, but it is funny to me that I am using kebab skewers and tape to preserve important information.

Q: Favorite place or building in Minneapolis or Hennepin County?

A: I am a big fan of the Peace Garden at Lake Harriet, specifically this one giant cedar tree that looms next to the cemetery. Stringing up a hammock high up in the branches and reading a book is something I will never get tired of!

Q: Book you’re currently reading or favorite book of all time?

A: I am currently rereading Daniel Lavery’s memoir/collection of essays Something That May Shock and Discredit You. It contains queer reinterpretations of biblical parables, Greek myths, and other media, interspersed with witty-yet-vulnerable essays about his experiences with religion, gender and self-image. It is one of my favorite books!

In the Archives: New Acquisitions

"Sheridan" spelled out in yard sign letters with children standing behind them at the Cake Walk

Sheridan Neighborhood Organization Records 

Board minutes, subject files, photographs, floppy disks, and videos documenting the work of the Sheridan Neighborhood Organization. Photo above from the SNO Records.

Armatage Neighborhood Association Records

Project files and subject files of the Armatage Neighborhood Association from the 1990s-2000s. Includes minutes, correspondence, and other materials from the Armatage Community Council in the 1950s-1960s.

Kingfield Neighborhood Association Records

Minutes, project files, correspondence, and related administrative records of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association.

American Association of University Women, Minneapolis Branch Oral Histories

Audio and video recordings, photographs, and corresponding materials from the AAUW's recent oral history project. Founded in 1889, the AAUW Minneapolis Branch is a nonprofit membership organization open to women who hold an associate's or higher degree.

Seward Redesign Records

Project files, organizational records, newspaper clippings and press releases. Seward Redesign (later Redesign, Inc.) is a non-profit community developer in the Seward and Longfellow area of Minneapolis. Founded in 1969, their focus is affordable housing and commercial real estate.

Dana Sparks Theodore Wirth Family Papers

Correspondence and assorted papers of Minneapolis Parks Superintendent Theodore Wirth. The bulk of the materials is correspondence between Theodore Wirth and Paul Riis (1923-1930), Theodore Wirth and Charles Doell (1931, 1947-1948), and Theodore Wirth and Charles Loring (1919-1921). The materials have been added to our Collection on Theodore Wirth.

In the Archives: New Finding Aids

Heart photo in hand reads "I love my library"

Hennepin County Library Communications Records

Brochures, booklists, flyers, reports, posters, strategic plans, event and program calendars and other publicity documents from the Hennepin County Library Communications Department, 1952-2022.
View finding aid 

Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Records

Administrative files, meeting materials, and subject files of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council from 2007 to 2012. Founded in 1980, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council is the official neighborhood organization for the Hawthorne neighborhood of north Minneapolis.
View finding aid

New Digital Collection

Black and white photo from civic and commerce collection

Browse over 200 photographs of buildings and scenes around Minneapolis from the early 20th century in the Civic & Commerce Association Photographs. The photographs were donated to the library in the 1920s and 1930s by the old Minneapolis Civic & Commerce Association (now the Greater Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce).

Browse the collection online.

Rare Art Book Collection Exhibit Coming in October

Four nature and floral samples from the Rare Art Book Collection Exhibit

Special Collections has hired two curators, Heather Carroll and Maya Powell, to curate an exhibit (opening this fall!) highlighting the library's rare art book collection. The Art Book Collection includes over 3,500 books featuring all art forms from around the world, spanning all eras. Most of the books in this collection were produced between 1850 and 1950 and are in the folio format--loose leaves, or pages, tied together in a portfolio. Many have been carefully hand-printed, stenciled or hand-colored. Here's a peek at some of the treasures they've found in the vaults!

Visit Cargill Gallery at Minneapolis Central Library from October 4 to November 29, 2023 to see Storied Leaves: Unveiling the Library's Rare Art Book Collection.

From the Blog

Parking Meters Subjected to Rigorous Tests to Determine Ability to Withstand Minneapolis Weather

1936 parking meter photo of city engineers

While the Minneapolis City Council contemplated an ordinance for installation of parking meters along the curbs of city streets in July 1936, members of the city’s engineering department put a selection of meters through a series of rigorous tests. How would they stand up to the varied climatic conditions of Minneapolis, where temperatures range from -34 to 108? Read more on our blog.

Schedule a Group Tour

Are you part of a group that may be interested in a “behind the scenes” tour of Special Collections? Tours are available for groups of up to 20 and cover all parts of the Special Collections department including the archives, rare book collections, and digitization. Tours can also be tailored to specific interests. Email specialcoll@hclib.org to request a tour.

Group of people on a Special Collections Tour at Minneapolis Central Library

Contact Us

Special Collections vault

James K. Hosmer Special Collections

Hennepin County Library
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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