Museums Bring History Alive

By Explore Minnesota

The traditions of the Ojibwe and Dakota Indians, the adventures of the voyageur fur traders, the perseverance of the early pioneers, the ethnic heritage of the immigrants who have settled in Minnesota through the ages. Discover state stories at historic sites and museums across Minnesota!

Minnesota History Center, St. Paul

An interactive museum with both permanent and changing exhibits, the Minnesota History Center hosts concerts, lectures, family days and other special events throughout the year. Signature exhibits include Minnesota’s Greatest Generation, Weather Permitting and Open House. History learning stations, an enormous research library, two stores and a cafe are sure to keep you busy all day long!

Historic Forestville, PrestonHistoric Forestville

Walk across the Carnegie Steel Bridge and step back into 1899 Forestville. See 19th-century merchandise in the Meighen family store, discover what's cooking in the kitchen, and help the hired hand with chores in the garden and farm buildings. Costumed guides portray actual residents and their daily activities. Located in Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, it's a perfect compliment to the Mystery Cave tours.

Forest History Center, Grand Rapids

A visit to the north woods isn't complete without a stop at the Forest History Center. The visitor center features interactive exhibits where you can learn about Minnesota's northern forests, past and present. After the exhibits, visit the recreated logging camp where you'll find costumed staff portraying the camp blacksmith, saw filer, clerk, cook and lumberjacks. A climb up to the 1930s-era fire tower gives a great view of the area.

James J. Hill House, St. Paul

The rugged stone, massive scale, fine detail, and ingenious mechanical systems of the James J. Hill House recall the powerful presence Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railway. Guides lead tours that help you imagine family and servant life in the Gilded Age mansion. Completed in 1891, the red sandstone residence was the setting of the public and private lives of the Hill family. A spacious, two-story, skylit art gallery features changing exhibits of Minnesota art and artists.

Historic Fort Snelling, St. Paul

Overlooking the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, Fort Snelling was once the furthest outpost of the U.S. military. Today, guests can learn about the lives of the people who lived in and around the fort in the early 1800s, as well as the important role the site has played in Minnesota history. Stop in the visitors center to watch a short orientation film, Where the Waters Meet: Stories of Fort Snelling, and then take a short walk to the restored historic fort and step back in time to the early 1800s. Costumed staff share the fort's history through conversation, demonstrations and lots of interactive activities.

Mille Lacs Indian Museum, north of OnamiaMille Lacs Indian Museum

The Mille Lacs Indian Museum offers exhibits dedicated to telling the story of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Trace their journey to settle in Northern Minnesota, learn about their fate during a period of treaties made and broken, and follow their story up to the present. Videos, computer interactives, listening stations and objects reveal information about the Band's life today, from dance traditions to music to sovereignty issues. Adjacent to the museum, a restored trading post retains its 1930s appearance. Here visitors find American Indian gifts from Mille Lacs artisans.

North West Company Fur Post, Pine City

At the North West Company Fur Post, step into the recreated world of 1804, where you can stop at the Ojibwe encampment and learn how the seasonal living of the Ojibwe changed when Europeans arrived. Meet a fur trade clerk who explains the system of barter that moved beaver fur from the hands of Indian hunters onto the heads of fashionable Europeans.