Post comments after visiting the museum
Today, I went for a tour at the Mill City Museum. It was my first real visit to the museum, and I particularly enjoyed my tour because I spent it in the company of a first grade class on a field trip! The tour guide within the Flour Tower tour asked simple questions to the first graders like, “What kind of machines did you see when we went up and down?” and “Do you think that you would like to work in a flour mill?” While the questions were simple, she offered a very concise summary of what Nye’s Chapters 5 and 6 focus on about mills. She said that while working in the mills was very exciting and offered good opportunities, it was also a very dangerous place to work, as explosions, fires, explosive flour dust, and broken equipment often were risks for employees. Although the elevator tour was a simple recreation of what working in the mill was actually like, I still got a little startled by the faked explosion and the broken conveyer belt. I found it interesting that although the film highlighted the danger and showed footage of the fire, they never provided a list of casualties associated with the mill. Overall, it was enlightening to get even a simple glimpse into what the world of the mill was like.
Surprising to me, I really enjoyed going to the museum. While I was there, the only other people there beside myself were about seven older people from a retirement home. It was funny, because a few of them had a family history associated with the mill. One of the gentlemen actually worked at the mill for a short time when he was young. Another woman knew that her family worked in the mill in the late 1800s as well as operating other small community mills around Minnesota. It was striking how the mill is embedded in the people and in the history of the area. The mill was a major component in the development of the Minneapolis area. I also really enjoyed looking at all the different types of grain and what they look like after they are turned into flour and how different flours are used for different baking needs. Overall, I really enjoyed the museum, and learned a lot about the history of the mill and of Minneapolis in general.
As someone who has lived in Minnesota my entire life, I realized after my visit to the Mill City Museum that I knew very little about the state’s history, so I really enjoyed my visit. It was nice, after reading the Nye chapters on mills, to be able to see some tangible items, such as a millstone and various other equipment. It really solidified the concept of milling for me. I spent some time in the exhibit room before viewing the “Minnesota in 19 Minutes” film. I found myself having flashes of recognition during the film as things that were discussed in class were brought up.
After the film, I went on the Flour Tower tour with one other couple. I was struck by how noisy mills must have been to work in, and how volatile the working environment could be. I enjoyed my time on the top floor the most, as the guide took the time to explain the equipment we were looking at, such as the air filters that removed flour dust from the air. I also enjoyed the view from the top, because the guide pointed out the falls and explained how the water flowed into the mill. She said there were about 300 employees when the mill was at its peak, and that most of those people were responsible for moving flour around and sweeping. Overall, what stuck with me from my time at the museum was just how integral the mill was to the development of Minneapolis as a city – a development that wouldn’t have occurred without the natural placement of the falls.
I loved my visit to the Mill City Museum! I am admittedly not a huge museum person, but I found it especially interesting because of the background information I acquired from class. Not that I ever doubted your lessons, but everything seems more real when you can see it, which was one advantage of going to the museum. The Flour Tower was so engaging. I didn't expect anything like that. It was so well done that the little girl sitting behind me started crying. I'm going to be honest, I probably would have too as a child - it was very realistic! I also really enjoyed learning about the explosions and fires, something I hadn't heard before. But I think my favorite part was the past and present pictures of the falls and Minneapolis in the lobby. I find things like that very interesting, because you can see how far we've come, which is quite exciting!
My visit to the museum was spent with my mother, the only other nerd I know of that would enjoy this visit with me. I have been wanting to take a walk through the museum for a long while now as a result of my trips across the stone arch bridge and how beautiful I found the courtyard. My mother and I entered, and as we usually do, we began making jokes about how lame this place was and how we were bored already. But we actually ended up learning a lot from the flour tower tour. What I found most interesting about the overall message that the museum was giving off was how wholesome everything was. I understand that children need to enjoy themselves at museums, but I felt that how gruesome these mills were. When we got a moment alone with one of the tour guides, we asked how many fatalities occurred in the life of the mill. She didn't know the statistics, but she did tell us a couple instances that she knew of... someone falling into grain and falling all the way down to where it was being sifted and someone falling into the falls. My mother then continued this morbid conversation by saying that there must have been many limbs lost to the machinery and the tour guide said, "funny you said that, you are absolutely right and there was a huge prosthetic limb market in the area as a result of the work in mills."
I have lived in Minnesota my whole life and have passed the Mill City Museum many times, but have never visited and I really enjoyed it! I particularly enjoyed the flour tower. It was great to not only see the different aspects of working at the mill and the machines that were used, but I thought the commentary by actual mill workers added an extra element to the tour. As described in Nye's chapters on the mill, mills were the center of the city. They provided workers with hundreds of jobs and supplied the city with many different types of supplies. However, mills were also very dangerous places to work and the flour tower showcased one floor that talked about this. The machines worked very fast and were very powerful, causing workers to get hurt if they stood in the wrong place at the wrong time. Overall, I really appreciated how this museum brought the history of the mill and Minneapolis to life. The river was at the center of this all, and without it Minneapolis would not be the industrialized and populated city it is today.
I've always considered the mills a very interesting place to learn about, having lived around this area my whole life. Going to the museum again, after having seen it before when I was younger, helped really illuminate the amount Minneapolis and us who live around here really depended on the industry.
Like many sweat shops and other workplaces of the time, it was not the easiest work in mills and on the river, but it helped our city grow into what it is today and has allowed us to create thriving lives around it, instead of just around the business of the log trade and river trade.
The story I always remember the most is that of the silo/tower filling up with dust and then exploding, it always seems like a little thing when presented with it but imagining a lifesized one and the dangers that presented is incredible.
I went to the museum on Saturday with my 8-year-old tour guide, who visited it on her classes field trip. It was fun to hear her tell me about the fire that destroyed the mill in the 1990s. She asked the docent some good questions, like why if the had previous fires and explosions, why it wasn't rebuilt after the last fire.
I asked the docent to explain how the water turned the turbines, because after class last week, it wasn't clear to me how that happened. He mentioned something about a canal that perviously ran down what is now the boulevard outside the river side of the building. It was hard to visualize a row of mills where there are now parks and condos. It actually wasn't until my daughter and I were playing on the water tables in the visitor area, that I finally understood how the river powered the mills. How the east and west bank dams diverted the river to a man-made canals where the water flowed down turbine tubes like sewer drains, exiting out on the lower level of the river. Still, it is hard to see how that worked today, give that the elevation difference between the upper and lower river looks to be about 20 feet. Was it deeper back when the mills were in place, or was the water table model exaggerated?
It is amazing that men were able to build such complex machines as these river mills with the limited tools and technology of the time.
This page contains a single entry by Capper Nichols published on February 25, 2013 10:35 AM.
America as Second Creation - David Nye: chapters 5 & 6 was the previous entry in this blog.
"Fossil Fuel Fundamentals" - A Khan and B. Eichler; "Grappling with the Age of 'Tough Oil'"; "The Trials of Bidder 70" - Abe Streep; "With Carbon Dioxide Emissions at Record High...." is the next entry in this blog.
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