When you think of Twin Cities museums, the ones most likely to come to mind are the well known art museums like the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Weisman, the Museum of Russian Art, the American Swedish Institute.

But, did you know there’s plenty of smaller museums throughout the Twin Cities, lesser-known (and less crowded), but just as intriguing for the collections they have? Southwest News Media sought them out and here’s a few you may want to check out — some you’ve never heard of, others that are right under your nose.

The Bakken Museum

Let’s start with The Bakken Museum at 3537 Zenith Ave. S., Minneapolis. The museum is named for Earl Bakken, the Twin Cities engineer who invented the first wearable, external, battery-powered, transistorized pacemaker, and co-founder of Medtronic, the medical device company. For anyone with a passion for inventions and STEM, The Bakken Museum is filled with historical scientific instruments, a science library, and lots of family-friendly interactive activities and programs including Frankenstein’s Laboratory and Ben Franklin’s Electricity Party.

Bakkenalia: On tap

Inventors know how to have fun, too. 

Inventors know how to have fun, too. The Bakken Museum has continued their 21+ events with a summer series called Bakkenalia. Programs earlier this summer included wine and distilled spirit tastings along with live music. On Aug. 15, the Bakken hosts The Bakkenalia: On Tap, for adults ages 21 and older. Its website describes it “as an evening of revelry and exploration — dancing optional. Hear how beer and breweries are influencing science and helping us become more ecologically sound, explore the museum’s exhibits and gardens, and enjoy craft beers on the museum’s rooftop patio.” The featured local breweries are Able Seedhouse & Brewery, Bauhaus Brew Labs, Surly Brewing Company, Modist Brewing Company, Number 12 Cider, Tin Whiskers Brewing Company, Torg Brewery, and Pryes Brewing Company.

Live music provided by Joseph Berg and Ar.birn and food available for purchase from Eat Street Social. Beer samples included in ticket cost.

Tickets are $20 a person, (free for Bakken Museum members) and available online until 12 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15. Due to the popularity of The Bakken Museum’s 21+ evening events, tickets will be limited. Tickets also available for purchase at the door. Must be 21 years of age or older to attend. Tickets available through Eventbrite.

Pavek Museum of Broadcasting

If you love radio and TV, visit the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting, 3517 Raleigh Ave., St. Louis Park. It’s 12,000 square feet of antique broadcasting equipment, televisions and radios. You’ll be surprised to know that Earl Bakken had a hand in this museum, too. He put himself through college repairing radios and electronics. Later as an adult, he heard collector Joe Pavek needed a home for his antique radio collection, Bakken and Paul Hedberg of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association joined Pavek to establish the nonprofit museum.

According to the museum’s website, its grand opening on Oct. 29, 1988, coincided with the 50th anniversary of Orsen Welles’ legendary “War of the Worlds” broadcast.

Pavek began his collection in 1946. As an instructor at Dunwoody, it pained him to see students taking beautiful old radios apart, so he saved one. And his collection grew from there.

Today the museum’s mission is education, raising awareness of the electronic communications pioneers, inspiring young people, and preserving historically significant electronic communications apparatus, materials and documents.

North Star Museum of Boy

Scouting and Girl Scouting

It’s the only museum of its kind in the nation, and it’s here, in St. Paul. The North Star Museum of Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting was organized in 1943, by a group of former Boy Scouts to preserve their scouting collections. Their collections found a permanent home in the former Ramsey County Library, according to Kurt Leichtle, executive director. The Girl Scout collection was added later and today the museum provides myriad events and programs for both groups.

“We are not formally associated with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts,” Leichtle said, “but enjoy being an independent nonprofit; we operate outside of each group. It gives us more flexibility.”

Leichtle always welcomes walk-in visits to the museum. Anyone who enjoyed their time in scouting will enjoy seeing the collections and exhibits from early camping gear to uniforms and scout camp collectibles. The latest exhibit showcases the history of scout camping; this winter, the exhibit will include winter camping.

“Yes, people do camp in middle of winter and sleep in tents,” Leichtle said with a laugh. “Come see us next spring when we exhibit the activities of both groups (Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts) during WWI and WWII. Scouts sold liberty bonds to help fund war. The St. Paul Boy Scout Council won a bronze medallion for selling most bonds at the time. Scouts planted Victory Gardens; the pride of the exhibit is an actual vintage hand cultivator/plow Scouts used.”

Did you know?

Want to donate a scouting artifact? Call 651-748-2880 for an appointment with the curator; diaries and letters are especially sought, of what girls and boys felt about their camping experiences.

Firefighters Hall and Museum

Firefighters young and old will enjoy their visit to the Firefighter’s Hall and Museum in Minneapolis. The museum chronicles and commemorates the bravery and heroism of the Fire Department. The museum is 12,000 square feet of fire trucks, equipment, archives, and photos dating from 1860 to the present. One significant highlight is the exhibit called, “81 Minutes,” documenting the I-35W bridge collapse in 2007.

The collection includes an 1865 operating hand pumper, an 1894 Waterous steam fire engine, a 1919 American LaFrance Ladder Truck and a 1932 FWD pumper built by the Minneapolis Fire Department City Shopother historical items dating back as far as the 1860s.

And the museum has an event hall that can be rented for special functions such as birthday and retirement parties.

Kids love the interactive displays — a sliding fire pole, fire alarm box, open and enclosed tiller cabs, turn out gear.

Northwest Airlines History Center

Who knew there was a museum dedicated to preserving the history of the Twin Cities’ own Northwest Airlines? If you’ve ever driven by the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to pick up or drop off family member, a neighbor, or a friend, take a short detour into the Crowne Plaza Aire MSP Hotel in Bloomington. Go to the third floor to the Northwest Airlines History Center. It’s a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of Northwest Airlines, its people, and its impact on the areas it served.

If you recall the glamorous days of being a pampered passenger, with plenty of legroom, meals served on actual dinnerware with gleaming silverware and menus, you’ll want to indulge your memories with a visit. And if you’re younger, accustomed to the today’s pay as you go service and amenities in the sky, you’ll want to see what you’re missing.

On display now are the stewardess uniforms over the history of Northwest Airlines, when flight attendants were fashion plates and glamorous jetsetters.

The museum’s mission is to preserve and present the history of Northwest Airlines, including all 12 of the airlines which are part of its corporate history. It was founded in 2002 by Henry V. “Pete” Patzke — a Northwest Airlines and NWA Federal Credit Union executive. In addition to the museum, there’s an additional archive at Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie.

And there you have it. Some hidden treasures of museums and collections worth seeking out. So the next time you’re looking for something to do or entertain out of town relatives, give these museums a whirl.


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