Minnesota History: Building A Legacy

Then Now Wow Exhibit Continues to Wow!

Students explore Minnesota's mining history in the exhibit Then Now Wow

Students explore Minnesota's mining history in the
exhibit Then Now Wow.

Since Then Now Wow opened in November 2012, more than 750,000 visitors have explored the interactive exhibit that showcases “wow” moments from Minnesota’s history. Students on field trips and families with children have especially benefited from the hands-on approach to learning. From exploding dynamite in an Iron Range mine to exploring a Dakota tipi to taking a virtual ride on a Soo Line boxcar through southwestern Minnesota, this exhibit shares the stories of Minnesota in engaging ways.

The 14,000 square foot exhibit was initially funded by a $2.5 million special appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund (ACHF) in 2009. Since then, corporate and private donations have poured in, allowing MNHS to enhance the exhibit.

In 2014, MNHS launched an innovative ACHF-funded mobile application for the exhibit called Play the Past, specifically geared toward students. The app, which is pre-installed on in-gallery mobile devices, promotes interaction with the physical exhibit by encouraging students to answer questions, solve problems and collect digital artifacts in the exhibit. Everything the students collect is stored in a "digital backpack" that they can open back in the classroom and use for deeper research and investigation.

“Children today have grown up with technology as an integral part of their everyday lives,” said Wendy Jones, director of education at MNHS. “They learn differently, so we have created this program to allow students to engage with the displays in ways they learn best.”

Additional ACHF funding in 2016 will allow the Minnesota History Center to improve the exhibit, including the installation of a handicap lift for the boxcar and making investments in the Play the Past mobile app and devices. Other funds will be used to create a comprehensive strategy to increase overall attendance, especially with diverse families, through audience research and new programs.

“Minnesota’s stories are as diverse as the people who live here,” said Jones. “We want our programs to meet the needs of our many communities, like Hmong and Somali families and children with autism. The research we’re doing will help us develop programs to promote inclusivity and engagement at the Minnesota History Center.”

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.