County Medical Center's history on display

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October 9, 2013 // UPDATED 8:37 pm - October 10, 2013
By: Laura Marrinan // Murphy News Service
Laura Marrinan // Murphy News Service

The Hennepin Medical History Center has traveled to the Government Center in downtown Minneapolis until the end of October to display the history of the Hennepin County Medical Center’s various departments. 

The exhibit, “The World Within Our Walls: The history of departments inside HCMC,” has been lining the hallways of the Government Center since Sept. 3, but many of the items featured have been on display in HCMC museums for years.

HMHC displayed the Decades of the Hennepin County Health Care exhibit in the Government Center two years ago and used the location again because it allows for a broader outreach to the community, Katie Baker, curator for the HMHC, said.

A volunteer team, made up mostly of retired hospital personnel, collected equipment, photographs, documents and timelines from various departments at HCMC to create an exhibit that shows the contributions that help fulfill the patient care mission.  The exhibit highlights each department’s contributions and transformation over time, from spiritual care to food service and the business office to security.

Much of HCMC is focused on the medicine, Carol Oeltjenbruns, a HMHC volunteer and the visionary behind the exhibit, said. The exhibit is a chance to highlight multiple departments and “give them recognition,” she said. “We need them. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Much of the work done to prepare for the exhibit was focused on getting all the departments to contribute post-1980 pieces to the collection.

“It’s hard to decide what current history really is,” explained Oeltjenbruns, “but we need to keep that timeline going.”

Volunteer Rondine Mehling said she orchestrated one of the main communication hubs for the departments.   She spoke with department heads and managers to get all the information needed to create a full display.

“I just kept prodding them for the information,” Mehling said, “but it really was a treat.”

Now that the display is open to the public, employees from some of the departments have visited the Government Center to get a better idea of how the hospital has changed.

“Many of the departments came in and visited and made it a team building exercise,” Baker said.

The Hennepin Medical History Center is maintained by about 25 volunteers and runs on donations and grants. The Minnesota Historical Society provided a Legacy Grant to help fund the “Worlds Within Our Walls” exhibit, but the gathering of the items for the collection was all completed with volunteer hours, Baker said.

The Hennepin Medical History Center has exhibits in HCMC year round that typically rotate every two to three months. The center shares the history of the patient care mission, features employees and connects patrons to the past.

After the exhibit ends its run at the Government Center, Baker said the items in the collection will return to their respective departments and display cases within the HCMC museums.

The exhibit runs through Oct. 30 on level A of the Hennepin County Government Center. The Hennepin Gallery is open Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and is free.

For more information on the Hennepin Medical History Center here go to

Laura Marrinan is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota. Learn more about the Murphy News Service at