Minnesota History: Building A Legacy

Minnesotans Experience “Wow” Moments in New, Interactive Legacy-Funded Exhibit

Kids exploring the mine in the Then Now Wow exhibit

Kids “detonate” dynamite inside the Iron Range mine featured in the
“Then Now Wow” exhibit at the Minnesota History Center

From the prairies in the south, to the Twin Cities, to the forests up north, every corner of the new “Then Now Wow” exhibit at the Minnesota History Center invites visitors to get active and get involved in Minnesota history—especially families with children and students on field trips.

“This is the first time we’ve created an exhibit specifically for children,” said Lead Exhibit Developer Ellen Miller. “But there are so many compelling things to do and see in “Then Now Wow,” people of all ages are going to love it and learn from it.”


“This exhibit is a no-brainer: if you have children or grandchildren, GO! MHS under-billed it by not putting an exclamation point on ‘Wow!’”
~ blog excerpt written by a “Then Now Wow” visitor


“Then Now Wow” visitors can explode dynamite in an Iron Range mine; explore a 1870s replica sod house; enter a tipi to hear artist/poet Bobby Wilson’s take on Dakota history and culture; “ride” a Soo Line boxcar through Southwestern Minnesota while tapping their toes to an original song by musician Charlie Parr; put together a life-size buffalo puzzle while learning how American Indians used each part of the animal; and hear and see stories from people across the world who now call Minnesota home.

“Then Now Wow” opened in November 2012 and is funded primarily by $2.5 million from the Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through a special appropriation made by the legislature in 2009. To date, the Minnesota Historical Society has also raised $481,000 in corporate and foundation gifts for the exhibit. Traveling exhibits that share Minnesota’s diverse regions, people and history have made stops in dozens of communities statewide. See page 70 for more information about the traveling exhibits program, “Exhibits to Go.”

Minnesota teachers, parents and students played a major role in developing “Then Now Wow” through a series of focus groups Society staff held around the state. Their feedback helped shape the engaging, interactive, storydriven features that are an integral part of the exhibit. These components support state social studies standards, complement the new Northern Lights state history curriculum and encourage students to use critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

Even after the exhibit opened in November, more “wows” are ahead. In fall 2013, the Minnesota History Center will launch an innovative new Legacy-funded mobile application for “Then Now Wow” called “History in Our Hands.” The application will be used by students visiting on field trips.

“Digital natives are the first generation to grow up with technology as an integral part of their everyday lives,” said Wendy Jones, Head of Museum and Education Programs. “They learn differently, so we are taking the best of what technology has to offer and using it to really deepen students’ learning.”

“Then Now Wow” will remain on view at the Minnesota History Center for many years, passing on our state’s rich history and cultural heritage to new generations of Minnesotans.


In addition to funding from the Legacy Amendment, major support for “Then Now Wow” is provided by Target, the 3M Foundation, the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation, the Katherine B. Andersen Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Additional support comes from the BNSF Foundation, Rosemary and David Good Family Foundation, Grotto Foundation, Hardenbergh Foundation, Dr. William F. and Hella Mears Hueg, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation and the George W. Wells, Jr., and Mary Cobb Wells Exhibition Fund.

This site is updated regularly with descriptions and data related to Legacy projects funded through the Minnesota Historical Society by the Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund (ACHF).
Further information about the use and impact of all Legacy Funds can be found on the Minnesota Legislative Coordinating Commission's Minnesota's Legacy site.