As stated in the introduction to Historic Resources in Minnesota: A Report of Their Extent, Location, and Need for Preservation, Submitted to the Minnesota Legislature by the Minnesota Historical Society (Minnesota Historical Society, 1979), "The 1977 State Legislature directed the Minnesota Historical Society 'to identify, inventory, and organize information about Minnesota's historical resources in a comprehensive plan.' It was anticipated that such a survey would be 'of inestimable use to the state, counties, cities, and regions in charting a course for historic preservation, recommending legislation needed in this field to the 1979 legislature, and bringing into sharp focus what programs and projects most need the State Historical Society's grant-in-aid program in the future'" (p. 1).
For the purpose of the survey, the Historical Society defined historic resources as "anything that provides information about the history of Minnesota and its people or that leads to greater understanding and appreciation of the state's past as a geographic area and a human community" (Report, p. 1)
The survey was divided into six components to facilitate data gathering: historical organizations, manuscripts (including photographs), newspapers, three dimensional artifacts, historic structures, and archeological sites. In the areas of manuscripts, historic structures, and archeological sites, the Historical Society was already conducting ongoing surveys at the time the comprehensive Historic Resources Survey was launched. These surveys were continued under the direction and along the lines in which they had begun, and their results were incorporated into the statewide survey. The recorded results of the various components of the survey are available at the Minnesota Historical Society.
The manuscripts component of the Minnesota Historic Resources Survey, administered by the Minnesota Historical Society's Division of Archives and Manuscripts, was carried out in two stages. Prior to the 1977 action of the State Legislature, the Division had recognized the need for a survey of historical source material in local repositories. Although information existed on the manuscript holdings of major, statewide repositories, no survey of local institutions had been made since the Works Project Administration (WPA) Historical Records Survey of the 1930s-1940s, and their manuscript resources were largely unknown to researchers.
In 1973, in conjunction with its network of regional historical centers, the Division organized the Minnesota Manuscript Resources Inventory Project. The purpose of this ambitious undertaking was two-fold: 1) to identify manuscripts (and public records) held by county historical societies throughout the state and 2) to make these records more accessible to researchers by publicizing their existence in a guide. For purposes of the survey, the term "manuscripts" was defined broadly to include not only primary source materials of local significance and limited distribution, including directories, maps, clippings, reference files, and historical research papers, as well as audio and visual resources.\
Between 1973 and 1976, student interns working out of the regional centers at Mankato, Marshall, Moorhead, Morris, and St. Cloud surveyed collections in over 40 county historical societies and recorded their findings on standardized forms. Each county historical society received a copy of the inventory of its records, one copy was sent to the Division of Archives and Manuscripts, and one copy was retained by the center that had done the survey. The project was discontinued in 1976 due to lack of funds.
The second phase of the survey, conducted under the auspices of the Minnesota Historic Resources Survey, continued and expanded upon the work begun by the Minnesota Manuscript Resources Inventory Project. Between 1977 and 1979, the survey of county historical society holdings was completed (except for those of the Olmsted County Historical Society, which declined to participate, and the St. Louis County Historical Society, whose collections had been added to those of the regional center at Duluth). In addition, the survey was extended to include selected local and specialized historical societies, public libraries, college libraries and archives, and church and religious order archives that were identified as having manuscripts in their collections.\
Phase two of the survey was conducted via on-site visits, telephone, and mail by one staff person who had been a student intern at one of the regional centers. The information collected was recorded on revised forms similar to those used in the earlier survey. Again, each repository received a copy of the inventory of its records, and one copy was retained by the Division of Archives and Manuscripts. During the preparation of this microfilm edition, two sets of forms from the two phases of the survey were incorporated into a single, integrated series. This comprehensive survey record serves as a guide to manuscript resources housed in more than 300 repositories throughout the state of Minnesota. It is available in the Division of Archives and manuscripts and at each of the regional centers. For additional information about the various components of the Minnesota Historical Resources Survey, see the published Report referred to above.
The forms reproduced in these seven rolls of microfilm (1973-1979) identify and describe the collections surveyed during the two phases of the manuscripts component of the Minnesota Historic Resources survey. The forms are arranged alphabetically by county and, within each county, alphabetically by name and repository.
The collection and item forms for each repository inventoried during the second phase of the survey are interfiled and arranged according to the following thirteen categories: Business, Cooperatives, and Railroads; Churches and Cemeteries; Directories and School Yearbooks; Families and Individuals; Genealogy and Biography (reference files, obituary files, family histories, biography files, and special collections to aid in genealogical research); Government (public records, records kept by and relating to units of government and agencies, and collections of certificates issued by governmental issues); Maps, Plat Books, and Blueprints; Military and Veterans; Oral History; Photographs (pictures, films, and slides); Social and Civic Organizations; Vertical files, Clippings, Scrapbooks, and Historical Research Papers; and Other.