The History Center has a wide range of artifacts. While a good amount are on display in the exhibit hall that represents just the tip of the iceberg. The variety of artifacts reflects the different personalities, companies, and ethnic groups that were instrumental in the creation of Olmsted County. We have artifacts from the Mayo Family, IBM, and early pioneer families. When these artifacts are combined with the History Center’s research library, new stories can be discovered.
The artifacts fall into several major collections. Listed below are the major collections of the History Center.
The History Center was awarded an IMLS grant. Today the textile collection is housed in a compact storage unit. Thousands of textile pieces, from quilts to Odd Fellows regalia to shoes, are available for research and study. The collection features clothing spanning over 150 years, including pioneer clothes and Mayo family formal wear.
Decorative Arts Collection
The History Center has a large decorative arts collection, encompassing glass, ceramics, paintings, and other forms of art. The Mayo Family collected decorative arts from all over the world and Mayowood houses many of these artifacts. Famous Olmsted County residents including Flora Bliss, Parker Sanders, and Burt Eaton also have large artifact collections.
Agricultural And Mechanical Collection
Before the Mayo Clinic, there were farmers who made a living from the bounties of the land. They used a variety of farming implements and machinery. The History Center has a large collection of these tools and machinery. The Mechanical History Round Table works on old farm machinery and holds the annual Days of Yesteryear that puts these old machines into action. The Agricultural and Mechanical Collection comprises the tools and machinery that puts food on our plates.
Olmsted County is most famous for the Mayo Clinic. Because health care is so important to the story of Olmsted County, the History Center has an extensive medical collection. Some medical tools are actually from the Mayo Family doctors. Real medical tools, some more surprising than others, are in the collection. There are also examples of medical quackery as well.
Minnesota became a state only a few years before the Civil War. The History Center possesses a variety of military artifacts, from uniforms to medals to swords. Artifacts ranging from the Civil War and Dakota Conflict to the Gulf War are included in the collection.
Native American Collection
Before the settlement of Olmsted County by European pioneers, the area that became Olmsted County provided hunting grounds for Native Americans. The History Center also has Native American artifacts collected by Olmsted County residents. The Native American collection includes Southwestern pottery and Paleo-Indian tools.*
*NB: All Native American artifacts have been properly vetted for NAGPRA.
Odds and Ends
Like other collections, the History Center has its odds and ends. These artifacts defy classification, standing out in their uniqueness, strangeness, or rarity. Some artifacts do not fit into the above categories. Souvenirs, paraphernalia, ephemera, knick-knacks, and kitsch also find their home at the History Center.
If you are interested in working with these artifacts, you can Volunteer. The Volunteer Coordinator will work with you in finding an area where you can be most helpful to the History Center.
If you are researching Olmsted County or are researching specific artifacts (military, textiles, medical, agricultural, etc.), contact the Curator of Collections directly. For research, the History Center’s Research Library has valuable information and librarians ready to assist your research needs.