The Minnesota History Center: A Multi-Generational Experience

While your family is gathered together for the holidays, you might want to find some time for a museum visit. The Minnesota History Center is a great place for out-of-town visitors who need a lesson in why Minnesota is so cool. And when multiple generations visit together, each exhibit gets some added perspective.

A few weeks ago, my mom, dad, and I decided to check out The 1968 Exhibit at the History Center (open through Feb. 20). As we enjoyed lunch beforehand at WA Frost, my dad regaled me with stories of his own experiences in 1968, from the draft and joining the Navy to wooing my mom. My mom added her own stories about the protests that happened at her college. I loved that the exhibit inspired them to share so much.

Martin Luther King Jr.Soda Counter, 1945

Left, Martin Luther King Jr., the 1968 exhibit; Right, soda fountain, 1945, Minnesota’s Greatest generation exhibit. photos courtesy of minnesota historical society

The 1968 Exhibit takes you month by month through the extraordinary year. It’s crazy to think of all that happened in 1968, from the Tet Offensive and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, to Richard Nixon’s election and Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. At every turn, I gained some more insight from my parents’ memories. The exhibit even has some fun sections that put the era in context, with artifacts showcasing the popular TV shows, music, and fashion of the time.

Prince's Suit, Purple Rain

prince’s suit from purple rain,
mn150 exhibit

Depending on who you explore the museum with, you might have a similar experience in the Minnesota’s Greatest Generation exhibit. In that exhibit you can learn what life was like on the frontlines and on the homefront of World War II for Minnesotans. One highlight of this exhibit is a fuselage of an actual C-47 troop transport aircraft, in which visitors experience a dramatic D-Day flight simulation—I’m a big fan of the Band of Brothers series, so I found this particularly engaging. Perhaps someone you are traveling with can add his or her own anecdotes and make this exhibit come to life in a personal way.

For the last few years, I’ve made an effort to stop in the MN150 exhibit every time I visit the History Center to learn something new about my home state. Since this exhibit is about to close on Dec. 31, this is your last chance to visit. Created in 2008 to mark the state’s sesquicentennial, the exhibit showcases 150 people, places, and things that make our state special. You can see artifacts from Ann Bancroft’s North Pole expedition (fun fact: she was my kindergarten phy-ed teacher) and look at Prince’s iconic suit from the film Purple Rain. MN150 brings back memories of great moments in local history, like the 1980 miracle hockey team at the Olympics and World Series wins by the Minnesota Twins, as well as sad times, like the death of Paul Wellstone. See what else made the list.