Showing some Minnesota museums the love they deserve.

When I started this occasional blog a year ago, writing about museums didn't factor in. Sure, I always gravitated toward good museums. Take me most anywhere and I'm ripe for some degree of indoor walkin' and learnin'. After the traveling I've done for research on this book, I now find myself in museums more often. Entirely by choice. Plus I've begun thinking about what works and why when it comes to a good museum. Rather than break down the blend of style and substance I look for in a museum, I'll throw down two examples I saw on this past trip through the upper Midwest. Not because I set out to write about them. Because I came to love what they each do, in entirely different ways.

The Minnesota History Center near the State Capitol in St. Paul has been there for 20 years - it hardly seems that long. The building itself sits on a perfect plot looking toward downtown and the Cathedral  of Stain Paul (what a coincidence) a miter toss from the old showy timber/frontier barons' manors in that grandiose hood. I had to set up an appointment to view things there on a Monday. Thanks to the delightful behind the scenes curatorial types, my direct interaction with the collection there was truly special and inspiring.

This museum offers upon special request a chance to see "3D Objects" from the Minnesota Historical Society's holdings. It was the full white gloves and chaperone interaction. If you really want to geek out in an area you are obsessed about - and you're willing to do your homework so you don't look like a buffoon - this is a truly special place to get your history on.

That interaction and the conversation that ensued then led me to drive just over an hour north of the Twin Cities to the living history museum up in Pine City. I've these sorts of places done well, insult the bejeezus out of visitors, and everywhere in between. Thankfully, the "North West Company" site there was incomparably good and refined in its active storytelling.

The fellow playing our tourguide / voyageur was particularly fantastic. Right down to the faux French verbal tics and the healthy improv playing off the the adorable kids in my group who could have been straight out of a Jeff Foxworthy video.

The point may take me a bit to get around to making later. Something about how good museums make you think once you've left the building and returned to the present. Whatever the moral to be spun from the larger narrative, a few places like these on a random Monday make me all the more happy to head for the next institution of moderately higher learner wherever I may be heading next. I hope you will, as well.