Museum History and Governance

The Minnesota Military Museum traces its beginnings to 1976 when the Military Historical Society of Minnesota was organized for the express purpose of establishing a state military museum—the result of visionary collaboration within three organizations. The Minnesota Department of Military Affairs agreed to provide facilities at Camp Ripley. The Minnesota National Guard Association’s history committee formed the nucleus for a governing Board of Directors, and the Minnesota Historical Society agreed to transfer various “start-up” artifacts to the museum and lend some staff support for the first two years. The museum, housed in a former enlisted men's club, opened to the public in June 1977.

The museum moved to its present location in 1987. The main building, constructed in 1931 as a regimental headquarters for summer field training with the Minnesota National Guard, was remodeled and expanded in 1986-87 for use by the museum.* It still houses most of the museum’s exhibits, the administrative office, and the museum gift shop. Over the years, several adjacent buildings were also rehabbed to provide space for artifact storage, workshops, offices, library, archives, a classroom, and vehicle exhibits. The entire museum “complex” now covers two acres and includes several buildings. Outdoor exhibits of vehicles, tanks, aircraft, and artillery pieces are placed throughout the museum grounds.

The museum continues to be operated by the Military Historical Society of Minnesota (MHSM), a non-profit educational organization chartered to preserve and interpret Minnesota’s military history. It is federally recognized as a charitable 501(c)(3) corporation. A Board of Directors comprised of an executive committee and at-large members governs MHSM. The board appoints an Executive Director who oversees general administrative operations, and a Curator who is responsible for exhibits, collections, and history-related programming. The museum is certified by the U.S. Army Center of Military History and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, although its mission encompasses all branches of military service. The museum continues to work closely with the Minnesota Historical Society, which also serves as its fiscal agent with the Minnesota Legislature, and with the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs, which provides the facilities used at Camp Ripley.

* The architectural design was inspired by the buildings of old Fort Ripley, a 19th century frontier army post (1849-1877) located a few miles upriver.