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MN fur trade exhibit coming to Detroit Lakes: Museum looking for stories of local trappers, traders

The Minnesota Historical Society traveling exhibit, "Fur Trade in Minnesota," will be opening at the Becker County Museum on April 6 — and the museum is looking for historic photos and stories of local fur trappers and traders to display alongside the state exhibit. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
This is one example of some of the interactive displays and activities that will be included with the "Fur Trade in Minnesota" exhibit, which will be on display in Detroit Lakes through June 23. (Submitted photo) 2 / 2

Hundreds of years ago, the land that would one day become the state of Minnesota played an integral role in the establishment of the fur trade.

During the 19th century, this industry flourished along the Great Lakes and in northwest Minnesota — and it is the focus of a new traveling exhibit from the Minnesota Historical Society that is coming to Becker County in April.

In conjunction with the arrival of "The Fur Trade in Minnesota," the Becker County Museum is working to gather historical photos and stories of local fur trappers and traders to feature alongside the statewide exhibit during its run, which starts on Saturday, April 6 and continues through June 23.

"We will be doing a local, Becker County spin on this exhibit, which has been traveling around the state since last May," says Becker County Museum Executive Director Becky Mitchell.

"We are looking for pictures and stories about your fur trapper and fur trader relatives," adds the museum's programs director, Emily Buermann. "For instance, my great grandfather, who lived in Pine Point, trapped (animals) all year long. I remember he had this shed off to the side of their home where there would always be different animal pelts out on stretchers."

Mitchell added that once the exhibit opens in Detroit Lakes on April 6, there will be multiple opportunities for classroom teachers throughout the county to bring their students to the museum and tour both the MHS and Becker County displays.

"There are quite a few educational components to this exhibit," she added, noting that it includes interactive, touchscreen displays as well as crafts and other educational activities, such as an opportunity to discover just how heavy a typical fur trader's backpack really was (hint: it's roughly the equivalent of an average bull dog).

"There's also a component that includes how the fur trade pertained to Ojibwe culture," Buermann added, noting that one of the interactive activities involves learning how to do Ojibwe beadwork.

But in order to really give the traveling exhibit a local flavor, Mitchell added, "we want to hear your family's stories... and if you have any unusual artifacts (Hudson Bay blankets, fur robes, etc.), we may take some items in on loan, through the life of this exhibit."

To be included in the local exhibit, Mitchell added, "we would like you to get in touch with us by March 15."

"The Fur Trade in Minnesota" was created by the Minnesota History Center's "Exhibits to Go" program, which brings Minnesota history to communities statewide. The Minnesota History Center holds the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society. "Exhibits to Go" is made possible by the Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, which was established through the vote of Minnesota citizens on November 4, 2008. For more information about MHS and its programs, please visit

March at the Museum

Though the opening of the fur trade exhibit is still more than a month away, the Becker County Museum is going to be a busy place in March, Mitchell said.

"Our Family Day on Saturday, March 9 will feature robotics," she added. "We're inviting local families to come in from 10 a.m. to noon and learn about some of our robotics programs here at the museum, watch a 3D printing demonstration, and try out some color coding for our Ozobots (mini robots) — with colored pens and paper or, for those who are more experienced, with one of our computer tablets."

"Our Brown Bag Lunch on Wednesday, March 13 will feature Ryan Pesch from MANNA Food Co-op," Buermann said, noting that his topic would be 'Historically Healthy: Food Co-ops and Our Healthy History of Growing and Sharing Foods."

"Then on Friday, March 15 we will be having Spring Crafts Day at the Museum," she continued, adding with a laugh, "We're going to welcome spring no matter what the weather's like outside."

"There will be a variety of crafts to try, ranging from $1 to $5," Mitchell added, noting that museum admission would be waived during the event, which runs from 10 a.m. to noon.

"It's open to all ages," she continued. "You have the fun, we'll clean up the mess."

Anyone interested in learning more about any of the above-mentioned events, or who has a story and/or photos to share for the upcoming fur trade exhibit, can contact the museum at 218-847-2938. More information is also available at the website,, as well as the museum's Facebook page.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 18-plus years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Detroit Lakes School Board. 

(218) 844-1454