The Fourth of July
Today, we did what most people here seem to do on a bank holiday, we went shopping!
We’d hummed and haaahed about going to the Mall of America – and yet, could we possibly come to Minneapolis without seeing it for ourselves? But if we were going, we’d better go early because the last thing we wanted was to get snarled up in nightmare traffic scenes.
No, the last thing we wanted was to get lost!
So, we were there around 9.50am (it opened at 9.30) and we made careful note of where we’d parked the car before going inside.
We then made careful note (ie took photographs!) of where we started out, which is where the first surprise came.
The Mall of America isn’t anything like as enormous as any of us had imagined.
The stores are arranged around a square, over three floors (or rather, two floors and one comprising mostly of food offerings). I think there may have been four anchor stores, one at each corner, but right now, there are just three, whilst the other is being rebuilt.
The thing is, as is often the case, the shops are the same here as they are in every other mall we’ve been to in the US.
Not that I’m complaining!
What was different was in the central area – though my friends living close to the Metro Centre in Gateshead won’t find it at all unusual to have a funfair there. The rides looked pretty serious – like nothing I’d ever dream of trying out – and if anything, the funfair was rather busier when we were there than the shopping centre.
We walked around two floors, stopped for milkshakes and one or two purchases, but by lunchtime we were done. We ticked the Mall of America off our list and retraced our steps (very easily) to the car and drove back into St Paul.
We’d decided to spend the rest of the day at the History Center.
It’s in a pretty impressive building, with a replica of Lindbergh’s Jenny hanging in the atrium.
There was also a great view of the Capitol building from here too.
We began in the Minnesota exhibition where one of the staff was standing by the Fur trading post, ready to do business with these Europeans who had just turned up. From this moment onwards, once again we were struck by how much the staff enhanced our visit. They were friendly, knowledgeable and yet didn’t overwhelm us with too many details.
We learned about the Indian schools, where children were boarded for weeks on end away from their families.
We also learned more about the lives of the pioneers.
Imagine a family of seven living in this small one room home during a hard winter. (I’d rather not)
We learned a little more about the plague of grasshoppers we’d read about in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. It sounded dreadful.
I’ve really enjoyed finding out about the lives of the pioneers and seeing pictures like this confirms just how hard it was for them – and how much easier it must have been once the railroad opened up.
The challenges of life in modern day Minnesota were explained in the next exhibit, which focused on the weather!
Woollen underwear features highly. This whole room described the many extremes of weather which life in Minnesota involves and gave us all the chance to experience a simulated tornado whilst sitting in a mock up cellar. Even knowing that it was just a demonstration, it was scary. I can’t imagine what it’s like sitting it out for real.
Next, was a feature about “the greatest generation” – the parents of the baby boomers, born in the 1910-1920s.
Throughout the center, I admired the imaginative ways to impart information. Here, the stories were told on the hanging clothes covers of a dry cleaners’ set and pressing the button sent the conveyor along a little and moved to the next story.
This flowed nicely into the next room, which was about the H’mong people who’ve settled in Minnesota. After the Vietnam war, many refugees were settled here and over the years the arrival of their families and friends have expanded the community still further. We’d seen part of the exhibit yesterday, when we were at the Hill House.
Finally, in this part – we thought – was a great show of the couture clothes from Ebony and Fashion Fair magazines. Absolutely stunning mannequins, somehow arranged in just the right attitudes of the 1970s-80s-90s, I loved it.
And that was that.
There was one other exhibit – the story of one house in Minneapolis and the people who lived there. Once again, it was the creative ways in which the exhibition designer communicated the information which wowed us.
Like this chest of drawers in the first family’s sitting room. Each drawer was labelled with an aspect of their life.
Pull out a drawer and voila, here was the story with pop up figures too. Each drawer told about a different aspect of their lives.
Another family moved in a few years later and their story was told on their clothes, by printing on the garments, writing on labels and on ribbons and trims.
Subsequent families had their stories told in their lunch boxes.
and on the tins and containers on the kitchen dresser.
Multi media, interactive and so varied. Great imagination.
This couple lived in the house around the time of the war and they were brought to life by means of TV screens in the dinner plates around the table. Someone had really had fun putting all this together, I think.
And rounding things off nicely, one of the latest inhabitants of the house was a H’mong family.
As we took one last look around, the lights flashed to signal that the museum was closing shortly. Hmm. A quick zip around the museum shop (and a groan from the two assistants when they saw customers approaching just five minutes before closing!) and that was it.