The bowels of the Minnesota History Center. (Photo: Minnesota Historical Society)
The bowels of the Minnesota History Center. (Photo: Minnesota Historical Society)

I have been a public employee for nearly a quarter century, in several local and state agencies, doing important yet mundane work that the public never sees. In cynical moments, I have often wondered if anything I do has enduring ­significance.

Then in the autumn of 2009 my wife and I attended a special “open house” at the Minnesota History Center. We went down the freight elevator to the subterranean depths where the Center’s main collections are stored. In this deep, climate-controlled environment, shelving rose several stories above our heads, stacked with boxes, books, and parchments. The docent told us that these items were preserved here for future researchers who would fill out call slips to have white-gloved archivists deliver these things to a special room for study.

As I looked up at those shelves, I recalled my own work boxing up old records for delivery here. And as the tour group moved on to other areas, I felt a curious mixture of gratitude and pride to see how the work of my peers and me in public service is so carefully preserved, enduring to benefit others long after we are gone.

Now as I go through my daily tasks, I think of those high shelves, and the waiting white gloves of posterity.


David Bornus has spent twenty-four years in government service with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, the Minnesota Department of Corrections, and the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The author of Trinitas (a medieval vampire novel), he lives with his wife Kirsten in Shoreview.