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New Exhibit in the Great Hall
"Fairy, Goddess, Wizard, Genie? Imagining Electricity"

Fairy, Goddess, Wizard, Genie? Imagining Electricity

Fairy, Goddess, Wizard, Genie? Imagining Electricity, part of the Bakken’s new Electrifying Minnesota exhibit, is now open in the Great Hall.  For those trying to ‘sell’ electricity as a safe, progressive commodity at the end of the 19th century, the public’s doubts and worries about this new form of energy were a challenge.  Publicity was designed to put a face on electricity, to give it a friendly and familiar human form. Fairy, Goddess, Wizard, Genie? features some of the late 19th and early 20th century images used to bring electricity down to earth and into the home. 


Electrifying MinnesotaNew "Electrifying Minnesota" Exhibit
Now Open

See how everyday life has been shaped by electrification through artifacts, photos, first-hand accounts, early advertisements and film from the 1880s through the 1950s.

The exhibit recounts the history of electricity since one of the nation's first hydroelectric power plants whirred into action 125 years ago at St. Anthony Falls.

It demonstrates electromagnetic induction, how the process utilizes natural resources to generate electricity and how the use of those resources impacts the environment.

You'll learn how you can take responsibility for our electrical future by joining The Bakken team and taking the Minnesota Energy Challenge.

Electrifying Minnesota is sponsored by:
Xcel Energy Corporate Citizenship Foundation
and Great River Energy, with support from the City of Minneapolis.

Electric Heart Exhibit

Experience your Electric Heart through computer technology, hands-on exploration and historical displays. See, hear and feel the natural electricity that powers the human heart.

Electric Heart ExhibitWatch a heart beat in time to your heart’s electrical impulse.

Create songs timed to your own heart’s rhythm.

Explore the different beats of human and animal hearts.

Discover why Arne Larsson is in The Guinness Book of World Records. See how pacemakers have changed over time.

Find out how electricity can jumpstart a failing heart.

This exhibit and programming is made possible through the generous support of Medtronic Foundation and their HeartRescue Program, Greatbatch Inc., Otto Schmitt Foundation and the Lillehei Family Foundation.

Permanent Museum Exhibit Galleries
     The Spark of Life
     The Electrarium
     The Mystery of Magnetism
     Magnetism and the Human Body
     Frankenstein: Mary Shelley's Dream
     Electricity in the 18th Century
     The Florence Bakken Medicinal Garden

Directory, Photo Tour and Online Exhibits

    Directory of Exhibits
    Photo tour of The Bakken

    Kids Invent!

Permanent Museum Exhibit Galleries

Field Trip Class at the Earl Bakken Pacemaker exhibitLobby
Displays in the Lobby welcome visitors to the Bakken. One section profiles Earl Bakken and his invention of the first wearable pacemaker.

There is an "Electricity is Life" shocker machine from the 1920s, and a display case featuring rare books and manuscripts from the library collection.

Embedded in the lobby floor is a compass rose made of stone, brass, and terra cotta that "orients" the visitor to the Bakken and to the earth's magnetic field.

The Spark of Life
Spark of Life Exhibit area
This gallery offers visitors a multitude of views on the pervasive role of electricity in the environment and the human body. Visitors can generate a 60,000 volt spark by operating a Wimshurst electrostatic influence generator. They can trace electrical science through history in a 1953 lithograph based on the 1937 French mural, La Fée Flectricité, by Raoul Dufy. Visitors can take a lesson on a working theremin (the first electronic musical instrument) from Lydia Kavina, and enjoy virtuoso Clara Rockmore playing The Swan by Camille Saint-Saens. The gallery features one of the first EKG machines from more than one hundred years ago. Other offerings include a Hopi kachina doll representing the spirit of lightning, examples of early implantable pacemakers, an acupuncture doll which maps the body's internal nodes of "energy", electroconvulsive therapy electrodes, an electric belt once used to treat certain physical ailments, and a Frankenstein doll. 

The Electrarium

In this electric aquarium, visitors can see a black-ghost knife fish, a mormyrid, an electric eel and several transparent knife fish, all use electricity in some way. At the touch of a button electrical impulses from these fish are converted into sound allowing visitors to eavesdrop on their secret communications as they go about their daily lives. Visitors will learn how such fish have evolved electrically to hunt and capture prey, and to communicate with each other in the murky waters of their South American and African home rivers.

The Mystery of Magnetism

Kids looking at magnetic globe
This gallery presents an overview of magnetism. Here visitors can explore the link between electricity and magnetism interactively by learning that a moving magnetic field causes current to flow (as in a generator) and the opposite, that an electric current produces a magnetic field (as in an electric motor). A display case features several ornate medical magnetos from the 1800's when electric current was thought to be therapeutic. View a collection of old compasses from the Age of Exploration. A magnet play area offers children an opportunity to learn about permanent magnets and to see their magnetic fields on a TV screen. Kids can also operate an electric crane, watch a video of a magnetically levitated frog, and learn about ways that animals use their magnetic sense to navigate. 

Magnetism and the Human Body

visitors look at MRI
This gallery explores the diagnostic and therapeutic uses of magnetism, from Mesmer's animal magnetism, to magnetic insoles, to magnetic resonance imaging. It prominently features a giant "eye magnet" used to enhance the surgical removal of iron fragments from the eyeball. A display of medical imaging technologies features an interactive MRI computer display. A case contains examples of radio frequency therapy devices from one hundred years ago including the D'Arsonval spiral, an Oudin coil and a Guilleminot spiral. A panel and exhibit case allow visitors to examine claims of magnetic "cures" from one hundred years ago and today; it features magnetic hair brushes, socks, a belt, and several "strap-on" devices to cure everything from lumbago to tennis elbow.

Battery Exhibit
This gallery celebrates the invention of the battery by Alessandro Volta in 1799. It features a panel on how a battery works, a case with several examples of medical batteries used to treat patients, an original voltaic pile and several more recent battery types.  An interactive "human battery" lets the visitor test his or her own electrical conductivity. A panel displays the history and applications of electrochemistry. 

Frankenstein: Mary Shelley's Dream

gold ball on the voltaic pile
Step back in time to the early 1800s, when Mary Shelley created Frankenstein. Press the gold ball on the voltaic pile when you are ready to experience a dramatic multi-media immersion into Victor Frankenstein's laboratory and Mary Shelley's study. The exhibit is free with regular admission.

Discover more of  the rich history and science of Frankenstein in the on-line exhibit Frankenstein: Mary Shelley's Dream. Find out about the original story written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley when she was just 18 years old. You'll find real exhibit artifact photos with links to all kinds of interesting information about the science, literature, and life experiences that inspired Mary Shelley to write this timeless tale. 

The Frankenstein exhibit is supported in part by the Minnesota Humanities Commission , the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Minnesota State Legislature.

Electricity in the 18th Century
Benjamin Franklin and Ramsden electrostatic generator
This exhibit takes visitors back to the golden era when Benjamin Franklin and other scientists first explored the mysteries of the "electrical fire." The gallery is located in the old dining room of the West Winds mansion. It prominently features a large, ornate Ramsden electrostatic generator and several examples of early electrostatic toys including a merry-go-round, a "thunderhouse" that explodes when touched by an electrostatic discharge, dolls that dance when charged up, and a planetary orrerry that is driven by corona discharge. Visitors can play with and learn about electrostatic devices in the Electricity Party Room much as their ancestors might have done in the 18th century. Here they can generate electrostatic charge to ring Franklin's Bells, to drive an electrostatic motor, to make birds fly, and to spin a pinwheel using the "power of points." They can also perform experiments to understand the nature of positive and negative electric charge.

The Florence Bakken Medicinal Garden  
The Florence Bakken Medicinal Garden recalls an era when plants were one of the principal tools of medical therapeutics. The first formal medicinal or "physic" gardens were established during the Renaissance and often connected to a medical school. The discovery of the New World opened up a whole new medicine chest of plant remedies, many of them learned from Native Americans. 

The Florence Bakken Medicinal Garden was created by integrating medicinal plants that thrive in Minnesota's robust climate with a pre-existing English landscape-style perennial garden. List of medicinal plants and their properties.

Floor Plans

Directory of Exhibits





Photo tour of The Bakken



A new web exhibit based on a selection of works from the Bakken’s extensive collection of books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and journals documenting the mesmerist movement.


Kids Invent!

A virtual web exhibit of what was on display at The Bakken in 2004 showing students and their inventions.

The Bakken
A Library and Museum of Electricity in Life

3537 Zenith Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55416-4623, USA

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Tele: 612-926-3878   Fax:  612-927-7265

Museum Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10 to 5
Thursdays 10 am to  8pm 
Closed Major Holidays
Library Hours: Monday - Friday 9 to 4:30

Admission: $7 Adults; $5 Students & Seniors; Children 3 and under are FREE!

© The Bakken Updated: October 23, 2007

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