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MNHS works to illuminate history

To the editor:

As public historians, we work to illuminate history by pulling back the curtain. We do so through the studied work of a historian – not through a political nor activist lens.

Historians welcome debate, and not every point asserted in a discussion about history is accurate. The assertion made by Katherine Kersten as reported in the Oct. 28 article, “Kersten says activists rewriting history,” that Minnesota Historical Society has “led” any such campaign is just one of many inaccuracies.

By understanding as much as we can about history, it opens a pathway to see how history shapes and informs the present, making us better citizens of our communities and our state. This is one of the objectives of the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS).

While some may find it uncomfortable, the ongoing historical process exposes us to history that can shed new light on the mosaic of human experience. This process utilizes a range of sources and methods — new evidence leads to new understandings.

MNHS is committed to sharing history through multiple perspectives for a more complete understanding. To do otherwise lacks human empathy and ignores history that is relevant to all Minnesotans.

At Historic Fort Snelling for example, we share the history of veterans, military, women, African Americans, Native Americans, Japanese Americans and others. As a state that is in part defined by immigrant experience, we explore the history of nineteenth-century newcomers as well as more recent arrivals. This history ultimately enriches our collective understanding of the past and the present.

MNHS stewards and shares Minnesota’s history with all Minnesotans. We endeavor to connect people to history, stoke curiosity about the past, teach critical thinking skills about history, and determine how the past informs the present.

As for education, MNHS is dedicated to supporting our state’s educators and to providing authentic history experiences and resources for students. Minnesota educators rely on us to help enhance their students’ learning opportunities with resources and field trips, to gain professional development, and to meet state social studies standards for Minnesota studies which are developed by the Minnesota Department of Education.

When we examine the evidence, it is apparent that history is not simple, but filled with intriguing complexity. When woven together, this dynamic history presents an increasingly accurate understanding of our communities and our world. And, as new evidence emerges, the clearer history becomes. We welcome this clarity.

Kevin Maijala

Senior Director, Learning Initiatives

Minnesota Historical Society

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