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I took a dive through museum archives and found weird, wonderful things

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

During the past six months of quarantine, I have watched everything of value (and quite a few clunkers) offered on Netflix, YouTube, and Prime. I have read the stacks of books I kept putting off during the pre-plague era. I have played through seven PS4 games.

It’s time to go back to basics: web surfing. This past week, I have taken a deep dive into the local artsy archives world. All of these are accessible and free for everyone, and many have a variety of entertainment to explore. Think of it like your new Disney+, only without a monthly charge.

This Black-owned newspaper from 1888 has hot international gossip!

This Black-owned newspaper from 1888 has hot international gossip! MNHS

Minnesota Historical Society

Where you’ll find it: mnhs.org/research

What you’ll find: This is the deepdive goldmine. With thousands of items and media to peruse, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the scope of MNHS’s online archives and collections. I would suggest choosing a topic: Black-owned newspapers, LGBTQ history, the women’s suffrage movement all yield excellent results.

Don’t miss: The personals and classified section from an 1888 edition of Afro-Independent is a delightful peek into history. “From 1 to 20 teeth extracted in 3 minutes. No pain or danger,” one ad claims. Another section, titled “Foreign Gossip” is filled with juicy bits: the Prussian government passed laws to protect timber, Parisians were into eating horse meat, and “the King of the Belgians” hated tobacco. 

Find out what this piece looks like from literally every angle.

Find out what this piece looks like from literally every angle. Mia

Minneapolis Institute of Art

Where you’ll find it: new.artsmia.org/art-artists/explore

What you’ll find: While the museum is open once again, you can still opt to take a virtual tour instead. Other things you will find on the site: podcasts, artist videos, and behind-the-scenes explorations of the pieces currently on display.

Don’t miss: One of the coolest things you’ll find here is the 3D items section. Click on an ancient piece from Mia’s permanent collection and, through the magic of technology, you can rotate and explore the piece as if you were holding it. 

Look at all these cool people, talking about stuff.

Look at all these cool people, talking about stuff. Walker Art Center

Walker Art Center

Where you’ll find it:walkerart.org/library-research

What you’ll find: Skip over the academic papers and historical ephemera -- unless that is your thing -- and instead click on the section titled “Dialogues and Film Retrospections,” where you’ll find a treasure trove of talks featuring iconic celebrities and directors. Installments include Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, Jim Jarmusch, Jessica Lange, Spike Lee, and Michael Gondry, among many others. If you’re someone who likes to listen to stuff while working, this is a good option.


Don’t miss: If you click over to the film section of their site (walkerart.org/visit/cinema), you’ll find a bunch of free movies to stream, including the 2020 Sound for Silents, where local artists create soundtracks for experimental vids.