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MinnPost: Chronicling the life of Thomas Sadler Roberts

By Amy Goetzman
MinnPost Books

Leaf_Love coverA visit to the local natural-history museum used to be a rite of passage for elementary-school students. (Holden Caulfield sought his lost childhood there in “Catcher in the Rye,” remember?) But rocks, taxidermy, and subdued lighting don't fire up generations raised on technology, and in recent decades, a lot of those field trips have been redirected to big, flashy science museums.

And that’s a shame. The Bell Museum of Natural History is a not-quite-forgotten treasure that the luckier school kids still visit. Established in 1872, the Bell’s amazing scientific collections (and yes, hip modern exhibits) document Minnesota’s lost wild places and beings. Thomas Sadler Roberts, an influential Minneapolis physician and naturalist, helped launch the Bell, and his research, collections and intentions helped preserve the memory of Minnesota landscapes dating back to the early years of settlement, when conservation was barely a thought. Today, the man himself has nearly been forgotten.

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