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Quick Summary

Minnesota Digital Library staff participated in the 2021 Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums Conference and gained some key takeaways to share.

Purple letters reading MALHM above images of people laughing in a conference setting, looking at a historic wood fireplace, and chatting in a history museum

The Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums (MALHM) is a professional organization comprised of historical societies large and small from all over the state. Many of MDL's contributors are members of this group, and there are great opportunities for connection and cross-pollination. MALHM holds an annual meeting and conference each year, with a robust schedule of sessions with takeaways meaningful to a broad spectrum of cultural heritage organizations. Here are some that resonated with us that we wanted to share with you: 

  • The presentation about Historical Empathy and Immigration in House Museums reminded us that the story is bigger than the standard narrative of the family that owned/built the house, but instead incorporates the surrounding community they were part of and connects to the larger world.
  • The Women's Suffrage panel focused on the many commemorations of this important event in history that took place over the past year, sometimes in different form than originally planned due to the pandemic, and again, on sharing a more complete and complex narrative. The presenters also mentioned how digital collections helped historians research from home, and agreed that even more perspectives and regional stories need to become readily available through digital portals like MDL. 
  • Digital Storytelling: The archivist at Blue Earth County Historical Society shared her experiences and tips for developing short videos to share stories about the past in new ways that reach new audiences. This inspired us to consider making "History in a Minute" videos for MDL, too.
  • The director of the Plymouth Historical Society and our very own Molly Huber reminded session attendees to use clear, concise language when writing exhibit text, as well as social media captions. They also stated that there is no one neutral interpretation of history, but rather multiple layers that tell many stories.
  • Presenters from the Museum of Minneapolis reminded us about the importance of making ALL people welcome at museums and places of learning, and that relationship-building and authentic partnership is at the heart of any DEI work. They also reminded us that people answer the question, "What does this story mean to you?" in many different ways, and there is not just one story to tell. Local and state history organizations, like MDL, need to always consider these multiple perspectives in our work.
  • National Park Service rangers, together with Mill City Museum staff, spoke about the ways we can partner with similar organizations to develop programs that benefit our wider community as well as help our own organizations do our work more efficiently and more successfully.

We were also presenters: the two of us gave a session on the expansion of MDL's social media program this past year, and the growth in followers and awareness that has resulted. 

Overall, we felt like MALHM lived up to its motto of “peers helping peers” at this annual conference. We both came away inspired to continue sharing Minnesota history with a wider audience and telling meaningful stories that make connections between many people.

Written by

Molly Huber
Outreach Coordinator, Minnesota Digital Library
Stephanie Hess
Program Assistant, Minnesota Digital Library
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Historical content from Minnesota's cultural heritage organizations, all in one place