Tucked behind the vintage wooden arch on Minneapolis Central Library’s fourth floor, the James K. Hosmer Special Collections houses some of the library’s greatest treasures—valuable maps, vintage yearbooks, and historic materials on a broad array of topics. Special Collections is a treasure trove of history and unique artifacts, all available to generations of Hennepin County residents.
From the Kittleson World War II Collection and the Huttner Abolition and Anti-Slavery Collection to local history collections covering Minneapolis and Hennepin County, Special Collections encompasses fascinating materials from the rich history and experiences of local communities through the years. With support from Friends of HCL, Special Collections staff not only acquire and preserve valuable antique books and media, they also digitize historical materials and items representing local history for patron’s ease of access.
This rich digital collection includes more than 171,000 photographs, school yearbooks, newspapers and magazines, posters, postcards, property records, manuscripts, restaurant menus, and more. This digitized content is available virtually to be viewed, printed, or downloaded with no logins or library card required.
With the onset of COVID-19, the digital treasures of Special Collections have been particularly popular, with more than 450K+ photographs, maps, and other items from the library’s Special Collection accessed and viewed online—a 42% increase over 2019! While spending more times in their homes than ever, people have researched their homes, browsed pictures of their own families or neighborhoods, and conducted research, all while staying socially distant. As the library’s Special Collection continues to grow and move into the virtual landscape, it becomes not just a historic resource, but one of learning and enjoyment for the public, too.