A peek inside the Hennepin History Museum

Credit: Hennepin History Museum Curator Jack Kabrud and Executive Director Cedar Phillips inside an exhibit showcasing a Minneapolis muralist.

Every-other week at the Hennepin History Museum, people gather before the fireplace in a library lined with large portraits for “Fireside Chats,” where they talk about local history and attend book signings.  

The March 8 chat gained a bit of notoriety when Facebook shut down the event page for violating “community standards.” The censored chat was with author Elizabeth Dorsey Hatle regarding her book, “The Ku Klux Klan in Minnesota.”

Cedar Phillips, executive director of the museum, said she still hasn’t heard an explanation from anyone at Facebook. It appears that an automated filter flagged the page, she said.

“As far as I know we still have an official infraction on our record,” she said. “Usually it’s not that controversial around here.”

Instead, the museum is famous for its archives on Minneapolis homes, including detailed photos of all homes sold by Confer Real Estate from 1915-1940.

“One strength is our real estate collection, especially Southwest Minneapolis,” Phillips said. “You have a decent shot at finding your house in our collection.”

A current museum exhibit showcases the menus and tableware from legendary Minneapolis restaurants like The Nankin Cafe, The Forum and Cafe di Napoli. One visitor vividly recalled an occasion at the former Charlie’s restaurant in Downtown Minneapolis: Her date said something inappropriate, and she ripped the tablecloth from the table.

Another current exhibit showcases sample works of Aniello Aprea, an Italian muralist who lived in North Minneapolis and painted giant murals inside local homes.

“People probably have these hidden under layers of paint,” said Curator Jack Kabrud.

The museum keeps a large stock of First Avenue posters, old yearbooks and clothing dating back to the 1840s. The collection started with the 1858 Territorial Pioneers Association, and the museum now holds everything from a flip flop abandoned on the collapsed I-35W bridge, to a wedding dress worn by conjoined Siamese twins.

The museum collection is expanding outside its walls as well. Staff have launched a mini-museum in the former Bay Street Shoes window display at Calhoun Square, depicting former neighborhood restaurants like Port Arthur Cafe and Figlio.

Phillips is a devoted Uptown resident — she lives in the CARAG neighborhood a block away from where she grew up. She volunteered at the museum in college, and she was married in front of the fireplace.

In the next five years, she anticipates launching a capital campaign for an expansion. The museum’s 44-room house is stuffed with antiques that fill former pantries and chauffeur’s quarters, and many of the rooms don’t have adequate HVAC for the collection.

“History doesn’t stop, so we need to keep collecting,” Phillips said. 

Hennepin History Museum

Where: 2303 3rd Ave. S., north of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

When: Gallery hours are Tuesday 10 am.-2 p.m., Wednesday 1-5 p.m., Thursday 1-8 p.m., and Friday-Sunday 1-5 p.m.

Now on view: Hennepin County dines out, A selection of works by muralist Aniello Aprea, Old Hennepin County — Robbinsdale

Cost: $5 for adults; $1 for seniors and students under 18; Members are free; First Thursday of the month is free