City of Minneapolis launches new digital image archive
MINNEAPOLIS — A new online image gallery offers easy access to more than 400 photographs, blueprints, letters and videos detailing the history of Minneapolis.
City records manager Josh Schaffer and others have been working to breathe new life into the holdings of the historical treasure trove tucked away at the base of the Minneapolis City Hall clock tower. A sample of the hundreds of thousands of materials house inside the clock tower went public earlier this month on the City of Minneapolis Archives Flickr page.
"It's the coolest place in the city," Schaffer said of the clock tower.
Nearly every inch of the 4,714-square foot structure, complete with two floor and four mezzanines, is covered by shelves laden with documents detailing the city's history and government activities.
"There are gigantic, century-old ink-drawn plat and parcel books that show Minneapolis, block by block; glass plate negatives and 16-mm films ... scrolls of building plans from the turn of the century; and City Council proceedings from 1858 ... ," wrote Twin Cities reporter Jeremy Stratton after a tour in 2005.
The collection largely has been unmanaged and uncatalogued, so wrangling it into an archive has been a daunting task, Schaffer admitted.
But he has had help from students in St. Catherine University's library and information science program, who spent spring semester working on inventorying and assessing materials, and the city clerk's office, which scanned photos and other records this summer to create a cornerstone for the online collection.
Schaffer plans to continue expanding the digital archive by utilizing the city's interns, collaborating with local universities that offer archive-related studies and evaluating the feasibility of citizen archivists.
"We really want to make all these wonderful records available," said Schaffer, who describes the archive holdings as "one of the best assets we have as a city."