It’s almost May — and that means it’s Minnesota Museums Month the annual celebration of all that Minnesota has to offer in the way of museums. And that’s quite a lot.
It’s a considerable bounty, with about 600 around the state. I’m guessing you’re at least passingly familiar with the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, the Walker Art Museum, the Weisman, the Science Museum of Minnesota and the History Center in St. Paul. But there are so many other museums to explore, in the Twin Cities and around the state. Here are just a few to consider visiting this month. Note that some are open year-round, while others are seasonal, usually opening around Memorial Day.
The Museum of Russian Art is a small gem just off 35W in Minneapolis. It’s the only North American museum to focus exclusively on Russian artwork, and it offers a frequently changing set of exhibitions and traveling exhibits. The gift shop is beautiful.
The Foshay Museum is tiny, but it’s packed full of details about the life and times of the Foshay Tower. Bonus: access to the observation deck.
Moorhead’s Hjemkomst Interpretive Center pays tribute to a unique bit of Minnesota history. There’s a complete replica of a Viking ship built in the 1970s by Bob Asp, and in 1980, the ship set sail from Duluth for Norway. The museum is also home to a replica of a traditional Norwegian stave church.
Another part of Minnesota’s Scandinavian heritage is on display at Gammelgarden in Scandia. “Gammelgarden” is Swedish for “old farm.” The museum is a collection of immigrant buildings that have been carefully collected and maintained. Gammelgarden is also home to a number of Swedish-based festivals, including summer’s Midsommar Dag and an annual bluegrass festival.
There’s a somewhat controversial part of Minnesota’s history in Alexandria at the Runestone Museum. The centerpiece of the museum is the Kensington Runestone, found by a farmer in 1898 and thought by some to prove that Vikings were in the U.S. as early as 1362. Others dispute this theory. The museum also has a number of exhibits covering Native American and Viking lives, as well as local wildlife.
There’s an architectural oddity out in Belle Plaine, at the Hooper-Bowler-Hillstrom House. It’s packed with a variety of antiques and period pieces, but is perhaps best known for its two-story outhouse. Yes, really. Call for hours.
The Iron Range is home to the Greyhound Bus Museum. Not only is a Minnesota company, but it played an important role in WWII.
History is on display all over the place, and featuring all different aspects of the state’s past. The Hinckley Fire Museum covers the horrific firestorm that in just a few short hours devastated the area around Hinckley.
History meets the outdoors at Roseau’s Polaris ATV Experience Center. Snowmobiles and ATVs abound, as well as discussions of their uses and evolutions.
Art is available around the state too, especially in the scenic town of Winona. The Minnesota Marine Art Museum is a lovely collection that’s much more diverse than you might guess from the name, and includes pieces by O’Keeffe, Picasso and Van Gogh.
One of Minnesota’s crabbiest residents is cheerfully feted in Sauk Centre. The Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home gives visitors a glimpse into the early life of the Nobel Prize-winning author who memorialized the town in his searing Main Street.
It doesn’t get much more Minnesotan — in a cheerful capacity — than the Dorothy Molter Museum in Ely. Molter was the last person to actually live in the Boundary Waters. After her death, her cabin was carefully dismantled, labeled, and brought to Ely and rebuilt, then filled with her belongings. She was known as the Root Beer Lady because she home-brewed root beer for visitors to her remote home. Yes, you can buy root beer at the gift shop. Yes, it’s worth it.
What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.