ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) is working to expand its engagement with veterans and military members in new ways, particularly at historic Fort Snelling in St. Paul.
MNHS recently welcomed Chris Belland as the program and outreach manager of veterans relations for the organization. In this role, Belland will build on work already underway to engage with Minnesota’s veterans communities and develop relevant programming across all MNHS historic sites.
Belland is a captain in the Minnesota Army National Guard and has served for 13 years, including two deployments overseas. He previously worked as a volunteer and a site interpreter at historic Fort Snelling for the last 15 years.
In addition, starting Memorial Day Weekend, historic Fort Snelling will now offer free general admission to all military veterans, plus up to five accompanying family members, who visit the historic site.
“Fort Snelling is the site of a wide range of stories, including stories of many military members who served there from 1820 through the end of World War II,” said Belland. “We’d like to honor veterans’ military service through this free admission offer and encourage vets to visit and engage with new and expanded content we’re developing at the site.”
New content in summer 2019 includes stories of the 25th Infantry—an African-American unit posted at Fort Snelling after the Civil War—and how the military used exercise and physical training to prepare recruits and help soldiers recover from injuries.
In fall 2019, MNHS will break ground on the historic Fort Snelling revitalization project, including removing the current, failing visitor center and creating a dynamic new visitor center with a 4,000-square-foot exhibit experience inside a rehabilitated 1905 cavalry barracks.
The revitalization project will be completed in 2021 and will be supported by an interpretive plan developed with community partners that expands stories of the military, Dakota, African- Americans, Japanese-Americans, women and more.