Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Travel

July 3, 2012

Minnesota History Center explores big issues

Thank goodness light-hearted art forms pop up throughout the Minnesota History Center in downtown Saint Paul because they balance deep, thoughtful exhibitions in the galleries.

“The U. S. Dakota War of 1862” for instance. Just opened June 30, with multiple points of view about a violent conflict historians say shaped the Minnesota known today.

“History matters because it shapes our lives,” says Stephen Elliott. He’s director of the state’s Historical Society.

“To understand this legacy is to better understand ourselves, and today.” Perhaps that’s just the thing to give meaning to a holiday.

Volunteering is a big vacation trend; maybe triggering thoughtful ideas should be too.

The much-anticipated Dakota War exhibit has received scrutiny from descendents of all the players – combatants, victims, victors, sufferers – all representing deep emotions.

Traveler-me wouldn’t have any of those from my East Coast heritage, but I can appreciate thoughtful exhibitions much more than lopsided displays.

Based on two of the Minnesota History Center’s on-going exhibits, I know an afternoon here during a Saint Paul holiday is a trustworthy idea.

“Minnesota’s Greatest Generation: the Depression, the War, the Boom” is one in which to immerse. Especially sitting on the floor of the paratrooper plane during the Normandy invasion.

Historians here call this storytelling style Life Arcs because it shows a multitude of ways people born in 1910 and 1920 spent their days.

Sit on a tall stool at the 1930s soda fountain; see what toys children who became WWII troops played with. Recall the Soapbox Derby with a homemade 1938 car. Real life like that.

Everything prepared me for the signature experience: seven minutes in a C-47, stories told in the voices of the generation who fought the war.

Real diaries. Real voices. Real news footage shown on two screens as if the plane’s windows. Real C-47 sounds.

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