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More than $60 million proposed to support statewide historic, cultural preservation projects

We can easily lose the history we don’t record.

That’s why HF2566 would appropriate $63.75 million in the 2024-25 biennium from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund to the Minnesota Historical Society.

We need to document our history because it matters, said Rep. John Huot (DFL-Rosemount), the bill sponsor.

“Good, bad or ugly — we need to have it.”

The House Legacy Finance Committee laid the bill over Friday for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

The Minnesota Historical Society has already funded several preservation initiatives, from a walking tour of LGBTQ+ history in Minneapolis and St. Paul, to conserving the Browns Valley Carnegie Library.

“There are literally thousands of important projects that have been funded by history Legacy dollars. Communities preserving their own history and sharing with others so that all of us can learn more about our past,” said CEO Kent Whitworth.

To continue these efforts, the bill would appropriate $27.5 million for statewide historic and cultural grants awarded through a competitive grant process to local, county, regional or other applicable organizations.

Alternatively, grants would fund activities preserving significant historic or cultural resources.

Another $27.5 million would be appropriated to fund historic and cultural programs that relate to state heritage.

Similarly, $7.25 million would go to preserve and enhance access to the Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage throughout the state via history partnerships with numerous organizations.

To orchestrate statewide surveys or investigations of sites with historical, archeological and cultural relevance, $1 million would go to one or more contracts on a competitive basis.

For a digital library project, an additional $1 million would be used to preserve, digitize and share Minnesota images, documents and historical materials.

Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center) sparked discussion about the historical society’s interactions with the Hmong community.

She referenced an incident where the institution collected important cultural artifacts for an exhibit and later returned the items.

“To put it bluntly, it was quite disrespectful to our elders,” she said.

Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (DFL-St. Paul) added that those who gathered the exhibit artifacts were minimally compensated.

Whitworth clarified that the historical society has since apologized and has been adding the artifacts from that exhibition into its the permanent collection.

Rep. Ethan Cha (DFL-Woodbury) also questioned the organization’s executive council selection process and said he is looking for more Asians and Pacific Islanders to be included.

He pointed out that four Hmong Americans sit on the Legacy committee.

“I want you to take that into account because it’s been a challenge to get a seat at this table but we’re here,” he said.

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