Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

The Polish Cultural Institute and Museum celebrates Winona’s Kashubian heritage and the prominent role Kashubian Poles and their descendants have played in Winona’s history and culture since the mid 1800’s.

The museum is located in the original headquarters of the Laird-Norton Lumber Company, a large lumber mill that operated during Winona’s heyday as a lumber milling town. Many immigrants were employed in the lumber industry.

Notable exhibits include wedding dresses and photos, household tools, lumber and farming tools, household objects,musical instruments, photos, religious artifacts and contemporary history artifacts.

fabric_artifactsGrants and other funding have provided opportunities  to translate, digitize and archive archives and documents.  A portion of the web site is in Polish Language translation services are provided by a young man who immigrated to Winona from Poland as a nine year-old.

The museum’s web site has biographical information on many deceased and living Winonans of Polish, links to genealogy sites, a list of pictures and stories related to Winona landmarks with Polish and Kashubian connections. The original (Washington) Kosciuszko School, the Hot Fish Shop and the Basilica of Saint Stanislaus Kostka are examples of significant local structures represented.

wordsThe Heritage and Community center has a large pictorial timeline display reflecting significant events and people (including contemporaries.)  A large sign showing language differences in English, Polish and Kashubian spellings caught my eye. The adjacent heritage house is furnished with artifacts representing Polish culture and used as a guest house.

The impressive museum is maintained by people who are passionate about preserving their heritage. Notable exhibits include wedding dresses, wedding photos, household tools, lumber and farming tools, vehicles, musical instruments, photos, religious artifacts and contemporary history artifacts.  Many Winonans and residents of Western Wisconsin where Kashubians also settled maintain ties with Winona’s sister city Bytow.  What’s in your backyard?

Polish Museum of Winona
Laird Norton Company & Family Foundation

studentdiscoverysetsExciting news!  The Library of Congress has released 3 new Student Discovery Sets. The titles and topics are:

  • Japanese American Internment
  • Political Cartoons and The American Debate
  • Women’s Suffrage

The new ebooks and the 9 previously published ebooks support commonly taught curriculum topics; they will be helpful for teachers supporting learning with primary sources in a 1:1classroom or for whole group inquiry and engaged learning. Library of Congress Teachers Page sets complement the primary source sets on the same topics.


movieAd.jpeg PM

Winona Republican Herald Ad, October 26, 1915

Winona’s Municipal Band is celebrating it’s centennial!   The celebration began with a showing of Antony and Cleopatra, a silent film produced in 1913 and first shown in Winona in 1915.   What’s the connection?

The big production a score composed by George Colburn, the band’s original director who later worked for the Chicago symphony. The composition is one of America’s “first feature length” original scores.”

 Antony and Cleopatra was filmed on location in Egypt and Italy, part of a trilogy produced by Enrico Guazzoni that included Qua Vadis and The Last Day of Pompeii

This was my first full-length silent movie; I was surprised by the huge cast, elaborate costumes, big epic scenes, barges, and animals – wild cats, a camel and alligators. Title cards helped the audience understood the love story and war between Egypt and Rome. My favorite scene was “The long silent march” depicting Roman soldiers landing in Egypt. They kept landing and marching forever.  (I thought of D-Day.  Wonderful, non-stop music played on a Steinway Grand  by Professor James Doering from Randolph-Macon College in Virginia added to film’s mood and the evening’s fun.

Winonans first viewed Antony and Cleopatra in 1915 at the Winona Opera House. Composer Colburn conducted a 15-piece orchestra. Admission was 15 cents. We saw the movie at the Winona County History Center. Part of the museum is housed in the former Winona Armory, also celebrating its 100th birthday!


Winona Municipal Band Website
Antony and Cleopatra: cast and references
Winona Newspaper Archive
Winona Republican Herald, October 26, 1915   Advertisement
Winona Republican Herald October 27, 1915 Movie Review

movie1poster.jpeg PM

Don’t commit crimes in St. Paul!  Rule #1 defined the cozy relationship between the St. Paul Police Department and notable gangsters residing there in the early 1930’s.

“St. Paul Police Chief” Tom Brown entertained us with tales of John Dillinger, Ma Barker and sons, Creepy Karpis and other notables during an entertaining bus-tour of St. Paul’s gangster locations.

We drove by a home once inhabited by the “nice neighbor” Ma Barker and the apartment once home to John Dillinger and site of a shoot-out.  We visited the site of a payroll robbery and shootout in SOUTH St. Paul and enjoyed entertaining stories of “Madam” Nina Clifford’s” brothel with its tunnel connecting it to a men’s club.


“Chief Brown” at Swede Hollow Park, the former site of the Hamm Mansion.

We stopped at the site of the former Hamm mansion (home of the brewing  family) in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood to see where William Hamm Jr. was kidnapped and taken away from the Land of Sky Blue Waters to Chicago.
Historic Photo: Reporters and onlookers at the Hamm residence following the kidnapping.

The Gangster tour is a fun and an interesting way to learn about a seamier side of St. Paul’s history. The tour includes a bit of literary history with glimpses of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Summit Avenue home and Garrison Keillor’s current residence. The mansion of railroad builder James J. Hill is nearby.

The tour begins at the man-made Wabasha Street Caves, known as a gangster hideout but originally used to raise mushrooms. The Caves are open for tours and for weekly swing dance parties. A fun spring day in the Saintly City!


Wabasha Street Caves

Wabasha St. Caves bar

Lib Guide Minn. Historical Society
Gangsters in St. Paul
Gangster images and artifacts

What’s in your back yard?

WatchFobWhat was in Lincoln’s Pockets the night he was assassinated? 

Lincoln’s Pockets, a Library of Congress professional development activity  answers the question. These artifacts are available to teachers and students digitally in Lincoln’s Pockets, a LOC Teacher’s Page Professional Development Activity. The complete packet includes facilitator directions, participant questions, and links to the artifacts. Some objects are easily identifiable, most, such as the object on the left,  are not. (What do you think it is?)

The engaging (and easy to implement) activity generates interest and questioning as participants try to identify each object and decide what they have in common. The contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the evening of his assassination are part of the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniania

Numerous museums and cultural organizations are holding special events and exhibits to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.  Remembering a Fiendish Assassination is an especially unique event sponsored by the The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. One commemorative experience will be a reenactment of Lincoln’s funeral train procession from its arrival in Springfield, Illinois, to Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery. Funeral Train Reenactment website.

JohnWilkesBoothThe 10-year old Springfield museum is incredibly fascinating and educational. Visitors enter the  extensive Presidential Journeys Gallery through a replica of the White House entrance. John Wilkes Booth stands off to the side, watching the Lincoln Family, Frederick Douglas, and other White House visitors.

An especially moving exhibit is a recreation of the Ford’s Theater assassination and a recreation of Lincoln’s closed casket.

The museum utilizes extensive technology to heighten the visitation experience. A  battlefield scene is loud and intense; in another live presentations it is hard to distinguish a live actor from a hologram. The museum and nearby Lincoln sites such as his home and office are well worth the visit.  There is a lot to see in Springfield. Allow at least two days!

Last September I introduced the recently published Student Discovery Sets from the Library of Congress. These ebooks are collections of primary source sets designed to provide interactive, inquiry learning while introducing students to primary sources on common curricular topics. I was curious about how teachers and media specialists are using these hands-on materials in their classrooms. Tom Bober, a school media specialist in Missouri shared his experiences with elementary students in his blog and for “Making Learning Interactive,” the NEW Media Center column in March/April Internet at Schools.

When Tom Bober was looking for resources to help 5th grade students understand a science topic, he used Understanding the Cosmos, an ebook primary source set from the Library of Congress. The Missouri media specialist realized students didn’t understand different models of the solar system; he thought specific examples depicted in primary sources would help them better grasp selected geocentric models. He downloaded the ebooks to iPads and assigned each student a specific primary source to examine. They marked and annotated the image using built-in tools and recorded handwritten notes on paper copies f of the Library’s Primary Source Analysis Tool. Continue reading  about Bober’s experiences, downloading the ebooks, and other ideas for using these and other resources for elementary students.

Primary sources like these offer engaging learning opportunities for  classrooms. Learn how!


Thumbnails of selected primary sources in the Dust Bowl Primary Source ebook collection.

mindoro-Cut-SignThe first warm weather of 2015 means it’s time for a road trip to visit undiscovered sites in the Driftless Region of Western Wisconsin.  Last weekend’s drive took us to County T and State Highway 108 between Mindoro and West Salem in LaCrosse County.




The trip highlight was the Mindoro Cut. Built in 1907-1908, the Cut is considered the 2nd largest hand-hewn cut in the United States.  It is listed in the National and State Register of Historic Places. County T and Hwy 108 are popular with motorcycle riders and convertible drivers. Both feature scenic views; Hwy 108 has wonderful hairpin turns.

I didn’t know about the Mindoro Cut before our road trip! It’s fun to keep discovering what’s in my backyard.


The Mindoro Cut: National Historic Marker Database
Mindoro Cut Makes History, LaCrosse Tribune, Nov 30, 2006

What’s in your backyard? Be a tourist in your own community; discover local history in unexpected places. Check out some ideas in Just off I-35
(Library Media Connection, November/December 2014)

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


%d bloggers like this: