Mysteries and Rarities at Central Minnesota History Museums

By Explore Minnesota

Behold a mysterious runestone, rare manuscripts, and engravings and illustrations by the world's masters at two Central Minnesota museums.

A historic controversy has brewed for more than 100 years over whether the central artifact at Alexandria’s Runestone Museum dates to the 1300s or is a 19th-century hoax. The runestone was unearthed in 1898 at Olof Ohman’s farm near Kensington, Minnesota. It was claimed that the runestone, allegedly carved by Vikings, proved that Nordic explorers reached America before Columbus. Linguists and historians have battled this one for decades. Visit the museum and decide for yourself. A nearby Scandinavian-themed icon is downtown Alexandria’s 28-foot statue of Big Ole, a Viking that debuted at the 1965 New York World’s Fair.

In 1856, Benedictine monks from Bavaria built an abbey dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and founded Saint John's University in Collegeville. Visitors can tour the campus and visit the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library to see selected folios of The Saint John's Bible and other rare book and print exhibits. The astonishing collections include prints dating from as far back as the 14th-century by major artists such as Dürer, Piranesi and Picasso. Manuscripts, maps, bibles and other objects show the finest work of scribes, engravers and illustrators. The library’s digital and microfilmed manuscript collection is the largest of its kind in the world.

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