NEIGHBORHOOD NOTES | Treasures in Central Library’s Hosmer Collection


In recent times I have been spending some of my happiest – and coolest – hours in the James K. Hosmer Special Collections of the Central Library on Nicollet Mall.  (It’s that quiet sanctum behind the elegant arches that were carefully removed and reconstructed from the main Minneapolis Public Library that long graced 10th and Hennepin and that lives on in the memory of every reader who ever curled up there with a good book.)

Most of the history pieces I have research were written for The Northeaster, my community newspaper.  Many reappear in Poking Around with Mary and some have been re-distributed by the Twin Cities Daily Planet.   The essential point is that all reflect what I have learned from the meticulously preserved records and the superb staff in Special Collections.

In posts to come I plan to describe just a few of the incredible treasures that await the curious visitor to the elegant physical space or to the rich online resources based on the collections.  Historians, journalists, genealogists, scholars, some librarians and a broad range of learners know all about Special Collections.  In case the reader has not visited – in person or virtually, these notes are for you.

Much of this information is online, so there are links to rich resources – clippings, photos, diaries, yearbooks, manuscripts, maps and more –  that have been spotted, collected, organized, preserved and now digitized by generations of librarians who value the record and care about the unknown future user.

My hope is that the online resources, representing but a small sample of what’s possible, will spark the reader’s interest in exploring the physical collection – learning more about our history, our city and region, our families and the contributions of collectors and of the library workers who preserved the record.  

For starts, these are the main collections within the James K. Hosmer Special Collections:

  • The Minneapolis Collection which covers all aspects of the city’s history and includes books, photographs, yearbooks, archival and manuscript collections, periodicals, maps and miles of catalog drawers filled with carefully identified and organized newspaper clippings.  Much of this collection is available online:
    • A large collection of historic images
    • A grand guide to researching the history of homes and neighborhoods of the city
    • Histories of the city and of city parks
    • Archives of clubs and organizations
    • Personal archives
    • Trade catalogs
  • The Kittleson World War II Collections – books on both theaters of the war, the home front, biographies, war-inspired fiction and two thousand digitized war posters.
  • The Nineteenth Century American Studies Collection – Forty-five hundred books and manuscripts, including first editions by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
  • The Huttner Abolition and Anti-Slavery Collection – books by and about abolition including William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Frederick Douglas.
  • The Hoag Mark Twain Collection – approximately 250 books, magazines and pamphlets by or about Mark Twain.

Complementing and working closely with the Hosmer Collections is the historically significant Athenaeum – more about the Athenaeum in a post to follow.

To visit the Hosmer Collection, call 612-543-8200 at least one full business day in advance to schedule an appointment. Hours are Monday-Thursday and the first and third Saturdays of the month from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2 p.m.-4:30 p.m.