Introduction to the History Center
The Southwest Minnesota Regional Research Center began in 1972 as a joint venture of the Minnesota Historical Society and members of the History Department of Southwest Minnesota State University. As an official public records repository established to serve the 19 counties of southwestern Minnesota, it is one of eight regional research centers in the state of Minnesota. The mission of the center is to preserve historical documents and encourage research and knowledge gathering on southwestern Minnesota. The Southwest History Center has reason to be proud of its activity level and involvement in outreach, publications, and research. The History Center is often referred to as a model organization and the coordinator is often asked to provide information and guidance to other archival and historical organizations.
Public Records Repository
Recognized as an official public records repository, one of the major responsibilities of the archives is to preserve various types of documents and manuscript collections. The types of documents housed in the History Center vary greatly, but the broad categories are as follows - Government Records (including state, county, town and township records), Legislative Records (collections from past legislators) Church Records, Business Records, Oral History Interviews, Newspapers, Photographs, Census Records, and Naturalization Records.
Collaborative Ventures and the Development of Southwest Minnesota Regional Research Center
The History Center has continued to succeed because of its cooperative efforts with the Center for Rural and Regional Studies, the Prairieland Genealogical Society, the Society for the Study of Local and Regional History and Southwest Minnesota State University faculty. The History Center is part of the Center for Rural and Regional Studies at SMSU.
The Center for Rural and Regional Studies (CRRS) supports Southwest Minnesota State University's founding mission to study, represent, and serve southwestern Minnesota. The Center is committed to the study and understanding of rural and regional society.
The Center maintains its own faculty and staff. The CRRS cooperates with the University's History Center, works closely with the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Center, and has a direct affiliation with the independent Society for the Study of Local and Regional History. The Center fosters interdisciplinary research and teaching among University faculty and programs.
The Prairieland Genealogical Society was formed exclusively for the purpose of the collection, preservation and dissemination of genealogical material and to prevent the thoughtless destruction of private and public documents, to provide a service to those engaged in family research, to organize workshops in the field of genealogy and family history, and to foster support and promote genealogical interest and understanding about the southwestern areas of the State of Minnesota.
There are 8 retired seniors who volunteer their time at the History Center on a weekly basis. These volunteers provide ongoing research and indexing services for family history researchers. Indexes include cemeteries, obituaries, some birth and death records and census information.
The Society for the Study of Local and Regional History (SSLRH) is a non-profit organization formed to promote the study and preservation of Southwest Minnesota's historical, cultural, ethnic and religious heritage. With publications and conferences devoted to new themes and approaches to southwestern Minnesota and contemporary rural life, the Society seeks to show that this region and its people are worthy of careful and expanding reflection. The Society endeavors to join local and national scholars with regional audiences. The SSLRH is located in the Southwest Minnesota Regional Research Center.
The Southwest Minnesota Regional Research Center and SMSU Faculty Involvement
The faculty of Southwest Minnesota State University have used the resources of the History Center through various course assignments. The History Department Faculty have encouraged Senior Seminar students to write their graduation papers focusing on local and regional history. These students are welcome to use the collections of the History Center and are also provided guidance by the staff of the Center as they pursue their research projects. The History Center also has an agreement with the Minnesota Historical Society whereby collections from MHS can be borrowed and transferred to SMSU for these research projects. Some of the other disciplines that have used the History Center for assignments and tours include Biology, Literature, Education, and Sociology. Each year approximately 5 different classes use the resources of the History Center.
The Southwest Minnesota Regional Research Center provides many service-related outreach activities. The Center responds to over 500 reference requests each year. Tours are provided to various community organizations and Elementary and Junior High students. Researchers and scholars are welcome to conduct research on site. Various public officials receive guidance and assistance in the preservation of documents. The History Center also provides staff to conduct programs and provide speakers for various historical organizations. The Center has also sponsored several successful grant projects that have resulted in conferences and speakers series on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University.