James K. Hosmer Special Collections

Special Collections, located on the fourth floor of Minneapolis Central Library, holds several in-depth collections containing unique and historic materials on a variety of topics, including the Minneapolis and Hennepin County Collection.

No appointment is necessary, but we recommend you contact us before your visit so we can have your materials ready for you when you arrive. Some of our materials are in storage and must be retrieved in advance. When you arrive, the materials requested will be waiting for you at the Special Collections information desk.

You may also contact Special Collections to discuss your project with a librarian. We are happy to recommend materials that you may find helpful.


Call us at 612-543-8200 when you arrive or ask at the fourth floor information desk.

  • Monday 9 - 4:30
  • Tuesday 9 - 4:30
  • Wednesday 9 - 4:30
  • Thursday 9 - 4:30

Contact us


We welcome donations to our collections. See our donation guidelines for more information.

Please contact Friends of the Hennepin County Library about financial donations to support the collections.

Minneapolis Athenaeum

Special Collections shares space with the Minneapolis Athenaeum, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to acquiring and preserving books and manuscripts and making them available to the public. Contact Special Collections to access Athenaeum collections. Learn more about the Minneapolis Athenaeum.



Special Collections Newsletter

A monthly email newsletter featuring news and highlights from the local history archives and digital collections.

Subscribe to the Special Collections Newsletter

Past issues


Many items from Special Collections have been digitized and are available online on Hennepin County Library's Digital Collections. All books in our collection are listed in the library's catalog.

Minneapolis and Hennepin County Collection

One of the area's best local history resources, the collection covers all aspects of the history of Minneapolis and Hennepin County and includes books, photographs, school yearbooks, archival and manuscript collections, periodicals, maps, postcards, websites, and thousands of files of newspaper clippings.

Learn more about the Minneapolis and Hennepin County Collection

Book Arts and Fine Press Collection

The works of dozens of current local and regional book artists, along with numerous examples of historic fine press books are included in this collection.

Browse the Book Arts and Fine Press Collection in the catalog

Kittleson World War II Collection

The collection was started in 1944 by J. Harold Kittleson and constitutes the largest collection of WWII material in the Upper Midwest. It includes approximately 8500 books, 700 posters and 3500 pamphlets, as well as, photographs, maps, personal scrapbooks and letters relating to all aspects of the war.

View posters online

Browse the Kittleson World War II Collection in the catalog

The Arts Collection

This collection consists of mainly of oversized and folio volumes collected by the library many years ago. It is a legacy of the early days of the library when Central Library also housed the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts and the Minneapolis School for Fine Arts – now the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) and the Minneapolis College of Arts and Design. Many of the volumes are rare, some even unique to this library in North America.

The collection contains several thousand volumes and spans nearly all types of art, including drawings, etchings, woodcuts, ceramics, glass and metal work, furniture, textile arts, sculpture, painting and architecture. The focus is on European and American art, but there are also many fine examples of Asian art. All time periods are reflected, but the publications date mainly from the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. Works in the collection are notable for the high quality of their illustrations, particularly in the folio volumes.

Browse the Arts Collection in the catalog

Huttner Abolition and Anti-Slavery Collection

This collection includes hundreds of books, tracts, speeches, pamphlets and manuscripts by and related to a number of figures in the movement, including Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois, John Greenleaf Whittier, William Lloyd Garrison, Sojourner Truth, Solomon Northup, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Generous contributions from the community allowed the Library to acquire the core of the collection in 1974 from Chicago attorney Robert L. Huttner who originally gathered the material. The Library has continued to build this collection adding hundreds of new items since its acquisition.

Browse the Huttner Abolition and Anti-Slavery Collection in the catalog

Hoag Mark Twain Collection

This collection consists of more than 400 books and pamphlets by or about Mark Twain. Included among the first editions in the collection are "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", "A Curious Dream and Other Sketches", "Mark Twain's Burlesque Autobiography and First Romance", "The Quaker City Holy Land Excursion", and "Following the Equator".

The core of the collection was donated to the Library in 1977 by Robert E. Hoag, a St. Paul librarian and long-time supporter of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Browse the Hoag Mark Twain Collection in the catalog

Nineteenth Century American Studies Collection

The collection includes books, manuscripts, and ephemera by and about a broad cross section of 19th century New England authors including novelists, essayists, poets, ministers, reformers, and even some politicians. The authors represented are numerous. Among the more famous are Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Henry Ward Beecher, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville, James Russell Lowell, Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Greenleaf Whittier. First editions of the works of most of these authors are included in the collection. There are also extensive holdings of contemporary biographical and critical materials.

Browse the Nineteenth Century American Studies Collection in the catalog

Using materials in Special Collections

  • No pens are allowed in Special Collections. We ask that you use only pencil while working in Special Collections. We can provide pencils.
  • Digital scanners are available. Many materials can be scanned, although staff reserve the right to prohibit scanning in cases where doing so will damage the material. If you plan to use the scanner please bring a flash drive with you. Smaller files may also be sent via email. Federal copyright law applies to scanned materials.
  • Digital photography is permissible. Most materials may be copied or photographed using a digital camera. A lighted photostand is available for use.
  • A black and white copier is available. Some fragile materials may not be able to be copied. If you would like to use the copier, please bring coins or dollar bills. We are unable to provide change. Federal copyright law applies to copied materials.
  • Wi-Fi is available. You may use a laptop in Special Collections. A limited number of outlets are available.
  • Some materials may require special care. Staff will inform you of any additional handling guidelines when you arrive. 

We look forward to your visit and to working with you!