Bring Back 6th Mobile Museum Reflects on the Past to Champion the Future

March 28, 2024

The Bring Back 6th Mobile Museum exhibition kicked off on May 15, 2022, during an outdoor street fest organized by Our Streets Minneapolis (OSM). Crafted by six Heritage Studies and Public History students, Jessie Merriam, Ayaan Natala, Jade Ryerson, Hibaa Roba, Angel Swann, and Carrisa Thomas, the exhibition shed light on the once-vibrant Black and Jewish neighborhood along 6th Avenue North that was bulldozed between the 1930s and 1950s to make way for the city’s first highway. 

Featuring panels packed with photographs and history, the exhibition aimed to expose the racist reasons behind the highway's path by contrasting historical photos of 6th Avenue with its current state, highlighting its former bustling life, vibrant music scene, and tight-knit community. 

 It also revealed how the media stigmatized the neighborhood to justify the highway project. Showcasing personal stories from community members, the exhibition humanized the impact of displacement, while images on the back of each panel captured the essence of the neighborhood's pre-highway era.

The project was a hands-on learning experience for HSPH students. They delved into local archives to create visual essays depicting life on 6th. With guidance from archivists and OSM, the students refined their work, eventually shaping it into the final exhibition. Professional designers were brought in, and community feedback sessions ensured the exhibit resonated with residents.

"No one had asked Northside residents for input before Olson Memorial Highway was constructed,” explained Jade Ryerson. “When it came to representing their experiences in the exhibit, we knew that it was essential for community members to have a hand in telling their own stories."

The mobile museum surpassed expectations, bringing together residents and sparking conversations about the neighborhood's lost vibrancy. It traveled to various events, engaging over 60,000 people, and helped locals envision a revitalized Olson Memorial Highway that catered to their needs. “It was immensely rewarding to see long-time residents reminisce about what 6th had been,” said Ryerson. “But the bigger payoff came from seeing them imagine what could come next and how they could play a role in shaping it.”

Overall, the Bring Back 6th Mobile Museum proved to be a powerful tool for community engagement and advocacy, showcasing the potential for positive change in North Minneapolis and earning the students a 2024 NCPH Student Project Award. In addition, in March 2023 Our Streets MPLS received a $1.6 million federal grant for boulevard conversion of Olson Memorial Highway.

Photo courtesy of Our Streets MPLS.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $350,000 grant to the interdisciplinary Heritage Studies and Public History (HSPH) graduate program. Awarded over the course of two years, the grant will provide support for students and their collaborative work with community partners.

On Wednesday, May 5 from 3:30 to 6:30 PM the 2021 Heritage Students and Public History class will virtually present their capstone projects. These presentations are open to the public and can be viewed by accessing this Zoom link on May 5. See the presentation schedule and learn more about the capstones below.

Next fall marks the start of a new program for the College of Design, the masters in heritage studies and public history (HSPH). In partnership with the College of Liberal Arts and the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS), HSPH combines hands-on professional development with rigorous scholarly training.