Our History

The Minnesota Humanities Center was founded in 1971, when the National Endowment for the Humanities began providing funding for state-based humanities programs.

The Humanities Center has always been a champion of education. Through the 1970s and 80s, our programming involved a range of education exploring Minnesota’s people, sociology, and history in relation to the nation’s. Televised and in-person programs strengthened how educators approach their content and classrooms, and examined rural-metropolitan worldviews.

In the 1990s, our public programming expanded. Traveling exhibits, international speakers, published books, and public events examined our nation and state’s diverse, difficult histories and potential future. After decades sharing offices in downtown St Paul, in 1996 the Humanities Center created its current home, a full-service event center in a former wing of Gillette Children’s Hospital.

The new millennium bore new successes. New resources and experiences created in partnership with Minnesotans include an Emmy-winning Iron Range documentary, a nationally-recognized exhibit about the history and present of Dakota-U.S. treaties, a range of popular illustrated books for Hmong and Somali youth, and a collection of incisive prose and poetry exploring Minnesota’s African American literary tradition, Blues Vision, in bookstores now.

The Humanities Center continues to engage our state’s communities by exploring “absent narratives” —voices often left out or marginalized. Veterans’ Voices amplifies Minnesotan military Veteran experiences through storytelling, workshops, and awards. We Are Water MN is an exhibit examining the practical, spiritual, and environmental roles of water in our lives. K-12 Education continues our education legacy through workshops, online learning, and field trips that examine the manifold cultures alive across Minnesota.