The Anoka County History Center features approximately 2,000 square feet of exhibition space in our gallery hall. Our exhibitions, which have been nationally recognized, tell the story of Anoka County and its people with objects, photographs, and documents from our collection.



Guided Tour: $30.00

Current Exhibits

Getting it Done: Anoka County's Answer to World War II

Opening December 6, 2016

Getting it Done: Anoka County’s Answer to WWII

This exhibit begins with a vignette of a 1941 living room, complete with newspaper and radio announcing the news of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Visitors can then follow the escalating involvement of the USA into the war, experience rationing and salvaging efforts, the Red Cross, and the popular Victory Gardens. The influx of women into the workforce, the conversion of local businesses like Federal Cartridge and Northern Pump to produce large quantities of munitions for the war, and other personal stories will round out the visitor experience.

In a gallery space reserved for nearly 15 years to honor those who served in the United States military, Getting It Done: Anoka County’s Answer to WWII highlights the experiences of family and friends who served overseas. Artifacts on display include knitted red socks and the book of approved patterns, a radio that delivered the news, a banner awarded for the determined war bond effort, and the massive story of munitions development.

Those left at home to harvest milkweed for kapok and naval life jackets, save rubber by not driving, and do without nylons rarely stopped thinking about their loved ones overseas. With three Medal of Honor recipients demonstrating ties to Anoka County, a pair of aviator goggles that witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and several military uniforms also on display, their sacrifices are certainly not forgotten in this exhibit.

Jon Arfstrom: Life of an Artist

Jon Arfstrom [1928-2015] lived his life creating art. Pencil, pen, oils, acrylics, watercolor, markers, colored pencils, charcoal, and pastels all found a home on his canvases and sketchbooks.

At the age of 14, Jon created portraits for passengers on the Great Lakes cruise ships during WWII. Now determined to live his life as an artist, Jon became an advertising illustrator for Gamble-Skogmo in 1950. Six years later, Jon joined Brown & Bigelow in St. Paul, working there for 40 years until his retirement in 1996.

Jon Arfstrom drew or painted constantly, becoming an early member of the Northstar Watercolor Society as well. He could be found working in all kinds of places, at any time of day or night, living and breathing his art, right up until the day he passed away. Join us now and experience the magic of his work.

Farms to Flamingos Exhibit

Farms to Flamingos: Building a Mid-Century Modern County

Peer into the life of a suburban home—complete with orange carpet, Tupperware, and turquoise rotary phone—while learning about the tract housing that expanded much of Anoka County. Play in the tractor tire sandbox and give a treat to Buster the dog in his little house, then imagine the neighborhood children running off to the school down the road. Here memories will float back to days spent listening to the beep of a filmstrip machine or having to rip fringes from notebook paper.

The suburban house and school displays are the tip of this multi-year project. It’s not just about teal phones and pink bathroom fixtures, though. “Farms to Flamingos” will investigate many facets of Anoka County lifestyles during the 1950s through 1970s, including safety and health concerns, the civil rights and feminism movements, and the changing face of agriculture.

In planning this exhibit, the Anoka County Historical Society (ACHS) happened upon an interesting idea: In 2016, society is as far away from 1950 as the people of 1950 were to 1884. There are 66 years between each date. It was during the building boom of the 1950s and 1960s that Americans became aware of the risk to their previous architectural heritage and created the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings preserved today throughout the nation as historic treasures only survive because citizens made the intentional decision to set them aside for future generations.

Today, some of the Orrin Thompson and Vern Donnay structures have their original owners living in them. Some have begun a second life with a new young family or two calling them home. Either way, these neighborhoods now qualify as historic districts and the homes as National Register properties since they’re over 50 years old. The question we need to ask ourselves is, in another 66 years, will Americans find value in this modern equivalent of an 1884 house?

“Farms to Flamingos: Building a Mid-Century Modern County” may help you discover some answers to that very question.