Minnesota History: Building A Legacy

Minnesota Digital Library

Pierz Journal

Digitized front page from the Pierz Journal, July 15, 1909.

“[Newspapers are the] daybooks of history.”
~ Alexander Ramsey, Minnesota’s first territorial governor,1849

Every time staff at the Morrison County Historical Society would move bound volumes of The Pierz Journal newspapers from the early 1900s, the newspapers would start to fall apart.

“Little bits would flake off around the edges, even when the volumes were closed,” said Manager Mary Warner. “The public couldn’t use them. We were even hesitant to use them.”

Warner said the newspapers contain great local news stories and detailed obituaries. They are the only place, she said, where genealogists, researchers, educators, students and the general public can find comprehensive historical information about eastern Morrison County.

“We’re actually losing information out of them,” Warner said.

A solution, said Warner, has been found through the Minnesota Digital Library (MDL). The MDL is comprised of professionals from libraries, archives, historical societies and museums across Minnesota. They are all working together to preserve and share online our state’s historical resources.

85,000 — Number of historical assets now accessible to the public on the Minnesota Digital Library’s Minnesota Reflections website

Once The Pierz Journals are digitized, they will be shared on the MDL’s Minnesota Reflections web site. More than 120 historical organizations across Minnesota, like the Morrison County Historical Society, have added more than 85,000 historical images, maps, documents and objects from their collections to Minnesota Reflections’ searchable database.

Helping teachers and students use the database is a key part of MDL Outreach Coordinator Marian Rengel’s job. The MDL now offers teachers’ guides to Minnesota Reflections that give tips on how to research the site and develop lesson plans from it.

“The MDL is bridging the gap between historical organizations that have collections and the teachers and students who need to access those collections,”
~ Marian Rengel, Minnesota Digital Library Outreach Coordinator

The MDL is also using newer, gentler technology to digitize newspapers like the fragile Pierz Journals. It’s a process that, because of space, staff and financial constraints, the Morrison County Historical Society couldn’t undertake on its own.

“Now we don’t have to handle The Pierz Journals anymore, extending their life,” said Warner. “And because they’ll be online, they’re more accessible than ever, thanks to the Minnesota Digital Library.”