Out of the Past

July 1, 2014, Department, by Samantha Bartram

Linnea Anderson, archivist at U of M’s Social Welfare History Archives, is particularly fond of images depicting 1950's-style spaceage playground equipment. We here at Parks & Recreation Magazine are taking a trip down memory lane just in time for July’s Park and Recreation Month. It seems a perfect time to delve into NRPA’s treasure trove of historical items — housed at the University of Minnesota’s Social History Welfare Archives — which contains thousands of documents, photographs, and other bits and scraps that tell the story of our organization spanning its almost 50-year existence (and the 50 years of development before that). 

“It’s a fantastic collection,” says Linnea Anderson, archivist at U of M’s Social Welfare History Archives and research services coordinator for the Archives and Special Collections. It’s a large collection, too: “The original records plus additional material sent to us early in the 2000s would add up to about 160 linear feet, and another 40 or 50 boxes are being processed right now,” Anderson says. “We’re at about 260 to 270 boxes of material — it’s a huge collection.” 

And what are some of the highlights of this impressive cache? “In the most recent batch of materials we received, we were surprised to find a lot more photographs than we expected,” Anderson continues. “In particular, I loved images from earlier in the 20th century of playgrounds and children using playground equipment, especially the space-age ones that I remember from when I was a child. That was a real treat.” 

U of M houses NRPA’s archives through an information-sharing partnership — the materials are available for public perusal and are occasionally exhibited or used in classroom settings. Click here to learn more about U of M’s Social History Welfare Archives. 


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Samantha Bartram is the Associate Editor of Parks & Recreation Magazine.