Recently in University Archives Category

The Importance of Serendipity

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By Kris Kiesling, Director of Archives and Special Collections

You never know when your day-to-day work is going to have some kind of unanticipated impact. As you'll see from Rebecca Wilson's posting on her Exploring Minnesota's Natural History project blog (a project to digitize all of the natural history materials in the University Archives funded by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund), the lantern slides from the Minnesota Seaside Station have been discovered by the Pacheedaht Heritage Project.

One of the best parts of our jobs as archivists is that we never know how our materials are going to be useful or used. Ned Huff was at the Seaside Station to study the botany of the area, not to document the indigenous peoples. But as it turns out, that documentation is now enormously important, perhaps even more important than his primary purpose for being in British Columbia. Serendipity? You bet! How fortunate that the University of Minnesota established the Seaside Station so researchers could work there. How fortunate that Ned Huff was there with his camera and took an interest in things not botanical. And how fortunate we now have the technology to share these slides, which have been part of our collections for decades, with the world.

And, if you're not already following Rebecca's blog, I highly recommend it!

100th Birthday of Dr. Norman Borlaug

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Elmer L Andersen.jpeg"What nobler purpose can there be for a University than to gather up the prizes of a culture--preserve them, propagate them, make them available--so that the best of what has gone before can be preserved and built on?" -- Governor Elmer L. Andersen

"I've worked with wheat. But wheat is merely a catalyst, a part of the picture. I'm interested in the total economic development in all the countries. Only by attacking the whole problem can we raise the standard of living for all people in all communities, so they will be able to live decent lives." -- Dr. Norman E. Borlaug

Elmer L. Andersen (1909-2004) embraced many roles: businessman, Minnesota governor and state senator, newspaper publisher and writer, University of Minnesota Regent, University alumnus (B.B.A. '31), philanthropist, and rare book collector.

The University of Minnesota Archives is one of the units housed in Elmer L. Andersen Library, the University's archives and special collections facility named in Governor Andersen's honor, and among its 19,000 cubic feet of material chronicling the history of the University, you will find the personal papers of Norman E. Borlaug (1914-2009): University alumnus (B.S. '37, M.S. '39, Ph.D. '42), noted plant pathologist, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and father of the Green Revolution.

A Big Year for the University Archives

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By Rebecca Wilson, Project Manager and Metadata Specialist for Exploring Minnesota's Natural History, a project of the University Archives.


BirdsonBarb1.jpgSince May 2013, I've seen hundreds of warblers, woodpeckers, wrens, vireos, robins, thrashers, chickadees, gulls, ducks, and a variety of other avian species. No, I'm not competing for a "big year" - the informal contest in which birders strive to identify the largest number of species of birds in a distinct geographical area within a single calendar year.  My ornithological observations, however, are all related to a distinct location, and are part of a very big year for the University Archives. 


The University Archives was recently awarded a Legacy grant to implement Exploring Minnesota's Natural History, a 12-month project that proposes to digitize over 150,000 materials that relate to the geological, botanical, and zoological history of the state of Minnesota. 


Red-tailedHawks-1924una430621.jpgSince the project launched in May 2013, I have been inundated with images of birds (approximately 3,000 thus far and counting) produced from scans of glass plate negatives from the collection of the Bell Museum of Natural History.  These negatives document the early field observations and bird studies made by Thomas Sadler Roberts, a prominent Minneapolis physician who retired from medical practice in 1915 to pursue his avocation of ornithology and serve as the Associate Curator of the Zoological Museum at the University.  Along with acquiring the expertise of a nationally recognized ornithologist, the University also acquired Roberts's private collection of several thousand glass plate negatives that depict hundreds of species of birds photographed within Minnesota from the 1890s to the 1940s.

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