Researchers and Communities in the Archive: The ‘Minnesota School’ and its Legacy.
Beginning already in the years just after World War I, an early generation of midwestern immigrationhistorians (whom Jon Gjerde labeled as "ethnic Turnerians") developed new methods for the study ofimmigration that actively involved researchers and communities in building archival collections thatcould support the kind of "grass roots" history they advocated. University of Minnesota historiansTheodore Blegen and George Stephenson helped to make the Minnesota Historical Society, as well asa number of smaller Minnesota colleges, important repositories of documentation about German,Swedish and Norwegian immigrants. Beginning in the 1960s, a new generation of Minnesotahistorians of immigration nurtured the complex relationships to the communities of working-classsouthern and eastern European immigrants, creating the institutions that eventually became theImmigration History Research Center. Relations among researchers, immigrant and ethniccommunities and professional librarians were sometimes fraught as each group pursued their ownslightly different interests. Even amongst themselves, researcher specialists sometimes disagreedabout the value of archives created with support from immigrant communities; some dismissed themas filiopietistic "shrines" to ethnocentrism. But such archives also released historical immigrationscholarship from its dependence on state-generated statistics and on state-sanctioned archives ofEnglish-language materials. The long-term legacy of archives created through researcher/community collaboration has been the kind of immigrant-centered, social and cultural histories of immigrationthat midwestern immigration historians at public universities have promoted since the 1920s.