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Minnesota Historical Society Oral History Project: Interview with James Taylor Dunn
Description BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: James Taylor Dunn, chief librarian for the Minnesota Historical Society from 1995 to 1972, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1912. He attended St. Paul Academy in St. Paul and Milford School in Milford, Connecticut, and graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, in 1936 with a degree in English and French. He worked in St. Paul as a writer for the magazine The Globe before attending and graduating from library school at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, in 1939. Before entering the army in 1942, Dunn worked at the Chemung County Library in Elmira, New York, and the Olean Public Library in Buffalo, New York. From 1942 to 1946 he served as an officer in an anti-artillery unit, was stationed in England, France, Luxembourg and Germany, and earned four bronze stars for battle participation. While in Luxembourg he met his future wife, the former Maria Bock, and they were married in St. Paul in 1947. Following his military discharge he returned to the Olean library and from 1948 to 1954 worked for the New York State Historical Association at Cooperstown, New York. In 1955 he became chief librarian at the Minnesota Historical Society, working there until 1972. He lives in Marine-on-St. Croix, Minnesota, and has written books and articles on the history of the St. Croix River valley, the Saint Paul Yacht Club and the Schubert Club. He is also active in historical restoration and environmental conservation organizations in the St. Croix area. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Dunn discusses his education; his associations with the New York State Historical Association and its curators, members and contributors; the "Cardiff Giant" hoax; purchase of a panorama of the 1862 Sioux Uprising; the Gold Tompkins Curtis papers; his military service and active duty in Europe; and events leading up to his appointment as chief librarian at the Minnesota Historical Society. Dunn's reminiscences about MHS describe the dissent and turmoil during and following the administration of director Harold Dean Cater; the situation in 1955 when Russell Fridley became director; establishment of a revised MHS library collection policy; and details of the library’s meticulous and time-consuming duties such as making paste and labeling; and interaction between the library and the newspaper, film and photographic departments. Dunn also discusses donors and their challenges in meeting researchers' needs; building a book collection policy under the financial constraints of that time; and the changes brought about by the advent of photocopying. His reminiscences about MHS staff include Cater, Fridley, Grace Lee Nute, John Talman, Irene Larson, Margaret Nelson, Solon J. Buck, Gertrude Krausnick, Lois Fawcett, Esther Jerabek, Michael Brook, June Holmquist, Bertha Heilbrun and others. Dunn also relates events of a trip to Europe with his wife for research about the birthplace of Sieur Duluth and tells of their success in purchasing materials related to Count von Zeppelin's 1863 visit to Minnesota. Dunn also speaks about the publication of his book The St. Croix: Midwest Border River, other articles, and his involvement with conservation organizations and in documenting and saving the historic sites of the St. Croix Valley.
Quantity 3 hours sound cassette
65 pages transcript
Format Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Measurements 02:44:16 running time
Creation Narrator: Dunn, James Taylor
Interviewer: Gilman, Rhoda R.
Dates Creation: 07/16/1990 - 07/21/1990
Interviewed 7/16/1990 and 7/21/1990.
Holding Type Oral History - Interview
ID Number OH 82
Accession Number AV1990.274
More Info MHS Library Catalog
Related Collections Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Minnesota Historical Society Oral History Project'