Research Center Preserves Stories of Minnesota’s Iron Ranges

Northland Uncovered: Iron Range Research Center at Minnesota Discovery Center

CHISHOLM, Minn. -For hundreds of years mining has been the focus of life on the Iron Ranges of Minnesota.

The Iron Range Research Center in the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm preserves the past of these areas in its archive collection.

The mission of this department is to collect materials to interpret the human experience on all three of Minnesota’s Iron Ranges.

“That includes the Vermilion in the Tower–Soudan area, obviously we’re in the Mesabi, but also even the Cuyuna range in the Crosby–Ironton area,” explains Archivist Christopher Welter.

Inside the archives department there are hundreds of thousands of materials including maps, letters and birth certificates.

All materials are primary sources or unpublished documents.

“It could be business records, church records, social and fraternal organization records, certainly historical photograph collections,” said Welter.

While sifting through the archives one may see mining as a common theme, but it’s not the only subject.

“We tend to think oftentimes of historical narratives as kind of dry, stodgy, you know they’re in your textbook, you’re forced to read them in sixth grade and then the book sits on the shelf, but real history is so much more messy and meaningful and humane,” explained Welter.

The materials are stored in boxes and filing cabinets for safe keeping, but are all available to the public.

“Essentially we’re like a time capsule. It’s our job to preserve this stuff,” said Welter.

If you’d like to access the archives at the Iron Range Research Center, make an appointment by calling (218) 254-1222, or emailing

The center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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