For years, the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS), a nonprofit organization, has been overseeing many of our state's historical sites. This partnership with the state is valuable. However, that doesn't mean it should be conducted without a measure of public accountability ("This work, like history itself, is messy," Opinion Exchange, June 11; "History, in full light, is always changing," editorial, June 14).
After all, we are talking about state assets — places, buildings and land the state has chosen to invest in and protect for future generations.It is "our" history.
Unfortunately, in recent years we've found some shortcomings in the current partnership with the MNHS. Decisions have been made about public properties without the openness and shared communication that comes from being overseen by a publicly accountable organization — such as the State Historic Preservation Office in the Department of Administration.
In recent years, MNHS has made decisions that attracted a lot of attention and raised questions about how they came to those conclusions. But if you wanted to understand the process, there are no e-mails to request through state data practices laws, there are no public meeting transcripts, and along the way there was no record of public interaction about the right way to honor and acknowledge our history.
With this lack of openness and transparency, most Minnesotans, of many backgrounds, have been shut out. We must increase transparency for Minnesotans and a provide for a greater balance of perspectives.
History is full of complex and even ugly events. We should all welcome a robust discussion of all aspects of our history and together make decisions about why a location is important, how best to honor all the people who valued it in its time — all through a transparent process in which the public can participate.
The proposal at the Legislature is not to eliminate the Minnesota Historical Society or to remove them from working with our state's treasured assets. It is a responsible move to make sure taxpayers have a means to engage and be part of decisions about Minnesota's assets the people have invested in.
It really is as simple as that — state assets should be overseen by accountable state entities and not by private organizations.
If the Minnesota Historical Society is committed to sharing the story of all Minnesotans, as the director states, the most common-sense solution would be joining forces with the Legislature. My goal is to ensure Minnesota's history is preserved and shared with future generations.
I know that, together, we can provide greater oversight and transparency, increase accountability and improve the relationship between MNHS, the Legislature and the people of this great state.
Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, is a member of the Minnesota Senate.