Hungry for a hobby and swelling with hometown pride, Paul Merrill started researching Minneapolis history five years ago. With the help of eBay, he collected stuff like old postcards and hotel keys.
“I started to explore my relationship with Minneapolis,” said Merrill, who grew up in the Northeast neighborhood and now lives in Robbinsdale with his wife and two daughters.
Three years ago, Merrill turned his attention to the Internet, publishing Minneapolis-flavored ephemera on the social blogging site Tumblr. Stuff about Minneapolis feels like a makeshift museum, teeming with everything from modern news items and crowd-sourced photos to outdated maps.
In terms of original content, Merrill doesn’t create much: When he posts his own photos, they’re pictures he took on his cell phone. And he rarely writes more than a few sentences, if he writes any.
Most of the posts on Stuff about Minneapolis are reblogs of what other Tumblr users have posted.
“There’s not a lot of magic to what I do,” he said.
But Merrill’s blog serves a purpose: It’s a go-to for more than 3,000 followers who want an aggregation of Minneapolis-centric stuff.
A lot of people treat Merrill like a cultural navigator, asking him for his opinion on anything and everything. “Hey, my friend's turning 21,” followers ask. “Where should we have a drink?”
“It’s cool,” he said. “But I don’t have all the answers.”
Merrill’s Tumblr use is relatively casual. When he’s out with his daughters, he’ll snap a photo of a cool bridge or landmark. Or if he’s surfing the web, he’ll post an interesting tidbit. In addition to his Tumblr, Merrill operates accounts on Flickr, Twitter and Facebook.
He said that even if he didn’t do what he does on the Internet, he’d still be a collector. Over the years, he’s learned a gaggle of fun facts about Minneapolis — for example, that Beltrami Park used to be a cemetery.
Because he’s sharing things with people, Merrill has learned what people respond to on the Internet, and specifically, how users respond to things on Tumblr, a heavily visual platform.
“If I share someone’s Instagram photo of downtown, that will get a ton of hits and a ton of likes,” he said. “For the most part, historical pictures don’t get as many likes or reblogs, but I still post them because I like them.”
A FEW OTHER MINNESOTA TUMBLRS
Hennepin County Library
Curated by librarian Ian Stade, this Tumblr features the photos and documents of yesteryear. They’re often relevant to what’s going on in Minnesota today. For example, this past Pride Weekend, Stade posted scans of Gay Vue Magazine from the early 1970s. During the Hennepin County Fair, Stade posted photos of kids at the fair in the 1940s.
In the summer of 2013, the Minnesota Historical Society Press plans to publish a book about 1970s Minnesota. To satiate your hunger for all things ’70s, authors Dave Kenney and Thomas Saylor post photos of what Minnesota looked like four decades ago.
Andy Sturdevant is an all-around facilitator of the arts: He’s a writer, an arts administrator and an artist in his own right.
His personal Tumblr is just that — personal. But it’s far from self-indulgent. He may post things about himself and his family, but Sturdevant also posts tasty morsels about the Twin Cities and the arts.
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