Minnesota History Center is home to the Minnesota Historical Society’s collections and provides a place for visitors to discover their connections to the past.
The landmark building houses a 44,000 square foot museum, library, classrooms, and conference rooms, the 314-seat 3M Auditorium, two museum stores and the renowned Café Minnesota. An interactive museum with permanent and changing exhibits, the Minnesota History Center hosts concerts, lectures, family days, and other special events throughout the year.
The building is also home to the Minnesota Historical Society library and archives, a research destination for schoolchildren, family historians, and academics. Collections include 1,120,000 archaeological objects; 230,000 artifacts; 174,000 books; 346,000 photographs; 19,000 maps; 6,000 paintings, prints and drawings; 36,000 cubic feet of manuscripts; 53,000 cubic feet of government records; and four million issues of 4,000 Minnesota newspapers and periodicals.
James J. Hill built a new home on Summit Avenue in part to showcase his impressive collection of French landscape paintings. The spacious, two-story, sky-lit room was considered a model of a modern gallery when the home was completed in 1891. Grooves along the walls enabled paintings to be hung frame to frame, several tiers high, and the skylight flooded the room with natural light — with shade provided by the large canopy and 133 carbon filament light bulbs for evening viewing.
Paintings by 19th century Romantic and Barbizon French masters such as Corot, Courbet, Millet, and Delacroix crowded the walls, bronze sculptures filled the floor space, and art books lined the shelves and tables. Today many of the works owned by Hill are part of the collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.