Gale Family Library

345 W. Kellogg Blvd
St. Paul, MN 55102



Library Hours

Temporarily closed.


$6 per day

Using the Library

Collections OnlineTimepieces

Local History Research

Doing Local History


The Minnesota Historical Society holds many kinds of resources to help you research local history in Minnesota—the history of a farm, a township, a village, a city neighborhood, a reservation, a county, or a region. Some of these sources are on microfilm; others are in their original format.


Types of Records


Published materials in the library catalog

  • Books include county histories, city histories, city directories, histories of regions.
  • Newspapers published in Minnesota, in English and several other languages, 1849 - present.
  • Maps, including fire insurance maps, atlases, plat books, gazetteers.
  • Congregational histories of churches and synagogues.

Visual materials

  • Photographs, many of which can be searched in the Collections Online database; others are in manuscript collections, government records collections, or cataloged separately as albums or collections.
  • Films & videos, from home movie footage to professionally produced documentaries and feature films can be found in the library catalog
  • Posters, which can be searched in the Collections Online database.
  • Artworks, which can be searched in the Collections Online database.

Manuscripts in the library catalog

  • Letters.
  • Diaries of women, men, and a few children, 19th and 20th-century.
  • Records of businesses large and small, from railroads to groceries.
  • Records of organizations of many kinds - veterans, benevolent, fraternal, civic, cultural, men's, women's, and mixed.

Government records in the library catalog

  • Local, such as the Detroit Lakes City records.
  • State, many of which contain information about local history, like District Court records.

Books and articles about how to do local history are also available in the MHS library. They include

Getting Started


One good way to begin searching for material is to look up the name of the place in which you're interested:


  1. The library catalog
    When searching the library catalog, you can limit the number of hits you get by including additional information. For example, search “Litchfield Minnesota” or “Marshall County Minnesota” to avoid getting information about persons named Litchfield and Marshall Counties in other states. Try searching these:
    • Angora Township (in St. Louis County)
    • Dayton's Bluff (a St. Paul neighborhood)
    • White Earth Reservation
    • Cuyuna Range
  2. The Collections Online database
    The best search terms when searching the Collections Online database aren't always consistent with those used in the online catalog. For example, searching for “Marshall County” brings photographs of the town of Marshall, in Lyon County, as well as photos of Marshall County.

The Minnesota Historical Society's quarterly magazine, Minnesota History, has been published since the 1910s and includes information about—and many photographs of—hundreds of Minnesota locales.

Newspapers published in Minnesota in towns small and large are rich sources of information about local history. Don't forget the (limited) collection of foreign-language papers published here as well, like New York Mills's Uusi Kotimaa (Finnish), Winona's Wiarus (Polish), and Minneapolis's Svenska Amerikanska Posten.