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Building a Museum

A City Grows: Get a sense of the rapid changes in early Minneapolis by viewing old photographs of the city taken between 1870 and 1890, from the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society. What looks different from today? What looks familiar?  

Postcard from Minneapolis: The first image in this feature comes from a postcard sent by someone in Minneapolis around 1915. Imagine you had visited the museum on its opening day. What might you have written on the postcard?  

To Their Credit: Museum labels can tell the story of how an art collection has grown. You can learn how the museum got an object from the “credit line,” a phrase telling whether the artwork was a gift from somebody or purchased with money given by somebody. The first part of an object’s “accession number” (its unique ID number) tells what year the object was added to the collection. (For example, object 14.2 came to the museum in 1914.) Browse through a selection of art from the MIA and compare credit lines and accession numbers. How many different people are named? Can you tell from the credit line why a gift was made? (A “bequest” is a gift given when someone dies.) How long has the museum owned the artwork?  

Adding On: Architects have a special challenge when they are adding on to an old building. Can a new design reflect parts of the original building but still be true to its own time? Compare the fronts of the 1915 museum and the 2006 expansion. What elements do they have in common? How are they different? Create your own design for the next museum expansion.  

May 2006