If you’ve ever wanted to scan an item that’s larger than your scanner, you know how much trouble it is. That’s why we at the Collaborative are so thankful for the Minnesota Digital Library. Through their association with the University of Minnesota, they have access to fancy equipment designed to handle oversized items.

The Minnesota Digital Library handled four items from the Northfield Public Library last spring that are available online both at their site, and now in ours as well.

Included are three maps and one newspaper:

  • One map shows lots in Northfield prior to Minnesota’s statehood, giving it a date between 1855 and 1858. It helps us to imagine how the city founders expected Northfield to develop — on the west side, bounded to the west by Orchard Street, the north by Fourth Street, and the south by Sixth Street; on the east side, to the north by First Street, the south by Woodley, and the east by Maple Street. One significant difference: “Independence” Street runs through the eastern part of the city. Take a look at the map and figure out what it’s called now.
  • A second “map” is actually a bird’s-eye view of the city from 1869, looking southeast, with the viewer at the bottom looking from west of what’s now St. Olaf Avenue. The drawing is extremely specific, with numbers indicating the public school, “Northfield College” (Carleton), depot, mill, fairgrounds, and five churches. The map also indicates a pond at the intersection of today’s Seventh and Union streets. Local expert Chip DeMann says that area, in the vicinity of old Memorial Field, was indeed a slough back then.
  • The third map is a city street map from 1968 — more modern, but still 44 years old. There are no streets east of Spring Creek Road; not much was north of Greenvale Avenue; Highway 19 followed Forest Avenue east out of town, and still not much was south of Woodley Street.
  • The fourth item is a copy of the Rice County Journal, published from Northfield, dated Sept. 14, 1876, four pages long — one week after the raid on the First National Bank. The editor describes seeing eight or ten horsemen coming into town. “Several of our citizens narrowly escaped; but considering our unpreparedness for such an onset, our deliverance was remarkable.” A detailed account of the raid comes on the third page of this issue, as does an obituary for Heywood and an account of his funeral.

All four of these are items that are fragile and therefore were difficult for the public to access before. Now you can look at them in close detail and from anywhere on the planet — with internet access, anyway.