Lunchtime Tourist

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January 12, 2004 // UPDATED 2:22 pm - April 24, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

Special Collections Department, Minneapolis Public Library, 4th floor, 250 Marquette Ave.

Ever wanted to track down a Minneapolis high school photo of a coworker, or read a 1960s brochure from a local manufacturing company? While there's lots of information for a researcher online these days, nothing beats actually flipping though real paper at the public library.

Tucked away in an orderly office on the fourth floor of Marquette Plaza, is the Special Collections Department of the Minneapolis Public Library. At standard government-issue desks, diligent librarians sort through incoming e-mails, phone calls and in-person requests for any number of questions about the city of Minneapolis. They're historical detectives, just waiting to solve the next puzzle.

The Minneapolis Library started archiving materials in 1940 with the goal to preserve documents from our city's people, businesses, events and organizations. Name any building, company, or even a topic and you'll be rewarded with an archival manila folder overflowing with news clippings, photos, legal documents, invitations -- anything they've accumulated over the years.

There are over 3,000 linear feet of books and manuscripts, and 400 file drawers stuffed with paper goods, or what the industry calls "ephemera" -- the short-lived paper documents of our daily lives.

Think again before you toss that theater program, Bruegger's take-out menu, or commercial real estate brochures. Documents like these give historical insight into the events of our contemporary lives. While we typically think of historical significance as events and scandals centering around politicians and celebrities, valuable history resides in church bulletins, meeting minutes and (yikes!) possibly even e-mail.

So, how does the library go about acquiring all this stuff? From people like you.

Society's legacy is dependent on donors who value history. Without people donating items to local museums and libraries these resources would dissipate and be lost forever. What do you suppose you've got in that desk pile that might be of historic value? A poster from First Avenue? Your Great Aunt's valentines? Military memorabilia?

Call Special Collections at 630-6350 and be a part of history.

LUNCH TIP: Hamlin's family-owned restaurant at 512 Nicollet Mall has been serving sandwiches throughout history -- or, at least, since the 1960s.

Send your tips to thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.