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Experience a century of change in the Minnesota River Valley! Our interactive displays and exhibits will engage your interest in the cultural and environmental history of this 33-county area.

The Minnesota River Table exhibit

Few river valleys in the US have so varied a geology and inter­esting a history as the Minnesota River. The 335-mile-long river begins in Big Stone Lake on the South Dakota border and ends where it joins the Mississippi at Fort Snelling. At the end of the last ice age, some 12,000 years ago, the torrential glacial River Warren draining Lake Agassiz, carved out the broad Minnesota River valley. Learn how the river's environment has changed over time.

The topographical Minnesota River Table exhibit lets you view the full landscape of the Minnesota River and its tributaries as you walk around the table. The interactive exhibit, developed by the Science Museum of Minnesota, invites you to learn about the many cultures that have lived in the valley over 12,000 years and the variety of its landscapes and wildlife. Story boards, flip books, posters and an interactive computer kiosk complement the river table.

Dakota tipi exhibit

Explore the typical Dakota tipi and the Dakota Memory Table, which describes the daily life and culture of the Dakota. The modern tipi is of canvas, rather than buffalo skins.

Minnesota riverboat exhibit

A replica of a paddlewheel steamboat projects from the wall in the exhibit hall. The front of the boat forms a stage for programs and storytelling, and a ladder leads to the top deck and pilot house. Inside

the cabin is an exhibit about steamboats on the Minnesota River, a place to learn about boat traffic on the river and how steamboats influ­enced settle­ment patterns. Models show how steam­boats worked.

1850s land office exhibit

Typical of early town buildings, the original Henderson land office has been rebuilt here. As treaties with the Dakota brought the land into the public domain, settlers and speculators registered their land claims in these federal offices. This replica was constructed from boards saved from the original Henderson Land Office of 1857.

100-year room: change from 1803-1903

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Minnesota River valley became part of the US through the Louisiana Purchase. It was then home to the Dakota and their traders. Throughout the century, large numbers of immigrants came to the valley amidst political turmoil in Europe and the ever-changing technology of the Industrial Age. Check out the 19th century in a Victorian setting on the mezzanine.

The Brown family room

This cozy exhibit room on the mezzanine contains a growing collection of information about the extensive family of Joseph Brown and his part-Dakota wife, Susan Frenier Brown, including a wall-sized family genealogy chart. Here also is a place to learn more about Joseph R. Brown, his interactions with Native Americans and his influence on the people and politics of early Minnesota, including Henry Sibley, Minnesota’s first elected governor.

Brown's wonderful steamwagon

Joe Brown made a living on the frontier in the transportation business— moving people and products up the Minnesota River valley. In 1860 he brought his first steam “tractor” to Henderson. The steamwagon was designed to replace ox-carts on the roadless prairie.