Are you curious about history, how we preserve and celebrate history in Minneapolis, and who writes it?
by Harvey Winje
If 19th century Irish poet and author Oscar Wilde is correct that “any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it,” then, who we commission to preserve and celebrate our local and national history is very important. Selection of those to lead us in acknowledgment of our past do well in listening to American historian Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison’s advice, “an historian should yield himself to his subject, become immersed in the place and period of his choice, standing apart from it now and then for a fresh view.”
Sue Hunter Weir, our own local, Phillips historian, is a hands-on chronicler of the past who does “yield herself to her subject, become immersed in the place and period of her choice,” and stands “apart from it now and then for a fresh view.” She toils in the soil planting flowers at our own Cedar Avenue and Lake Street Cemetery and she rummages through scores of newspaper archive pages to tell the stories of those thousands buried there.
Perhaps agreeing with Alexis de Tocqueville that when “the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness,” a commission to preserve and celebrate our heritage was created by the City of Minneapolis in 1972. The Mayor and City Councilmembers make appointments to the Commission. Mayor R.T. Rybak appointed Sue Hunter Weir to assume a vacancy on the Commission in May 2010. The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) serves as a citizen advisory body to the Minneapolis City Council. HPC is part of a nation-wide network of groups dedicated to the preservation and celebration of our local and national heritage. The Commission holds public hearings twice each month. The public is welcome to attend and highly encouraged to participate.”
The Commission sponsors summer walking tours of Minneapolis historic sites, partners with American Institute of Architects Minneapolis (AIA), and Preserve Minneapolis to “…recognize projects, individuals, and organizations that celebrate and enhance the heritage and historic
character of Minneapolis.” (That’s about 10 awards each year). The more routine business includes designating historic landmarks in the city and holding public hearings about proposed changes (usually architectural) to historic properties.
Other members of the Commission are: Mr. Chad Larsen, Ms. Denita Lemmon, Mr. Kevin Kelley, Ms. Kathleen Anderson, Ms. Meghan Elliott, Ms. Christina Harrison, Ms. Ginny Lackovic, Ms. Linda Mack, and Ms. Deborah Morse-Kahn. (they include architects, realtors, preservationists, an archeologist and historians).