Museums of Minnesota  

Museums of Minnesota


This is to inform you that I have decided, once and for all, again, finally and certainly, once more, to put an end to the Museums of Minnesota project.

It began in 2005 after my partner, Jim Maloney, and I produced Back On The Mississippi, a one-hour offbeat travel program created for Twin Cities Public Television. BOTM went on to play in over 30 PBS markets across the country.

The Great Recession got Museums of Minnesota off to a poor beginning. Various fundraising attempts met with limited success. We are extremely grateful to the Engdahl Family Foundation, who provided a generous grant that got us started building awareness of Minnesota museums through our popular website, the basis of our research for the television series.

We were heartened by several achievements. We helped Minnesota museums share information and tips with one another, and with the public. More than a few people said our museum listings inspired them to alter their vacation plans. Our promotion with the Saint Paul Saints was a highlight for Museums of Minnesota as well as the Minnesota museums that participated in a fun night. Most of all, we enjoyed the positive feedback from museum professionals and patrons alike.

Things seemed to be on the upswing in the fall of 2013 when we organized a Kickstarter campaign. It was to launch in the spring of 2014. We had it all lined up pretty good.

Unfortunately, my partner and friend, Jim, died suddenly in December of 2013.

Jim and I met at the Campbell-Mithun advertising agency in 1979. I can't say enough about what a good friend he was, so I won't even start.

It should have ended when Jim did. But Alan Lloyd, the videographer for BOTM, stepped up and volunteered his services. We enjoyed working together. Then when we were about to launch a crowdfunding effort in 2015 (our second, the first being cut short by Jim's death), I was hit with a foot ulcer that is only now pretty much healed. Again. That followed a broken foot in 2013 and surgery in 2014. You might read more about it someday. But not here, not now.

It's time to move on. My wife, a pulmonologist at the Minneapolis VA, has retired after 37 years serving our vets. We plan travels near and far. Our son lives in Madison, relatively near, and our daughter is in Japan, which is not as far as we plan to go.

I love driving the back roads of America. We'll see more of them, and some on other continents. Beyond that, when asked what we will do in retirement, our answer is that we intend to curate our lives. This includes everything from sorting old photos to making sure our kids aren't stuck with multiple drawers full of orphan Tupperware lids.

My single most valuable personal achievement after meeting so many outstanding museum professionals is realizing a profound respect for the concept of curating.

Retiring is one thing for a doctor and another for a writer. I'll probably never retire. Not in any real sense of the word. It's time to get serious about that memoir I've been promising myself.

It's time to tell about creating the world's first humor blog in 1984, bringing Internet email to the Twin Cities public in 1991, and how I won $2,500 at Grand Casino while betting Bill Gates's money. Then there's that foot thing.

Alan and I shot two videos last spring that we had hoped to use for crowdfunding, but we decided they were not up to snuff, so you won't be seeing them. We will keep three other brief videos that we like on our Facebook page.

The museum listings on our website will be available for a little while, but since we aren't maintaining a facility for updating them, we will take them down at some point. For a comprehensive and very nicely arranged set of museum listings and detailed information, including links to individual museum websites, check out the Museum Association of Minnesota at and their outstanding app.

My greatest regret is not fulfilling my dream of sharing the stories I gathered in my research over more than a decade. Like the guy at the train station in North Redwood Falls, who bought a collection of sample pocket watches from a disgruntled drummer and used them to build a business that became Sears & Roebuck. Or the video I shot at the Reads Landing museum before and after its impressive renovation. The evocative bas-relief artwork on the buildings around the Pipestone County museum, as impressive as the museum itself. The revolutionary airplanes powered by automobile engines at the Filmore County museum, where I saw more Oliver tractors than anyone has a right to expect anywhere. Ed's Museum in Wykoff, the most mundanely amazing collection of everything unexpected, just because, well, Ed. Scratch marks on a Lake Superior cliff where 3M unsuccessfully attempted to mine sandpaper and incidentally founded an empire. And Mousenik. Ah, Mousenik. The first mouse in space, blasting off from a field north of Austin, built by a group of high school boys who went on to pioneer human space travel in their jobs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

No shortage of stories here.

But there is a shortage of time. So I have decided to put mine elsewhere, before I join Jim and other old pals.

Special thanks to Jim's many friends who gathered to celebrate his life and record their thoughts on a video tribute you can find at (please do so, he was a good man).

Also, heartfelt gratitude to Bill Hanley and Tom Trow at TPT for their encouragement and guidance.

Those with strong constitutions and too much curiosity are welcome to view a photo history of the ulcer where my first metatarsal attempted to escape through the sole of my right foot. I created it for my podiatrist. It starts in the spring of 2015 and shows the wound finally healed in late November. I wouldn't necessarily advise it, but it's there for the intrigued at

I guess I'm just a documentarian at heart. And foot.

I'm better now, feeling free, and looking forward to the future. I hope you are too.


© Back On The Mississippi, LLC - All Rights Reserved • 4769 Hauge Circle, Eagan, MN 55122
Know of a hidden treasure in Minnesota? Tel: (651)-686-0041 • Fax: (651)-452-3588