Minnesota governor portraits coming back to Capitol

The portraits of all 38 former Minnesota governors are headed back to the state’s refurbished Capitol for display.

Minnesota Historical Society Chief Executive Officer Stephen Elliott told lawmakers Thursday that a plan to rotate groups of portraits had been revisited. His announcement came as the Legislature was considering a bill to require all the portraits to be displayed; a House panel advanced the bill anyway.

Elliott said it became clear the original display plan was unpopular.

“We’re bowing to that sentiment that folks from around the state would like to see all the governors represented in the Capitol,” he said.

Elliott said the portraits will start returning to the Capitol in the spring with additional details provided with them to put each governor in historical context. A precise arrangement hasn’t been determined.

Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley, said he saw some merit in the Historical Society’s initial plan.

“They’re spread out all over the place and not in any discernible chronological order that I could see,” Freiberg said. “The thought of having a lot more interpretive materials there, focusing on a few and having some interpretive materials made sense to me.”

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said he was in favor of a new layout as long as every governor was represented.

“The current display of helter-skelter here and there, getting scared by Gov. Pawlenty as you’re going down the stairway in the dark night, I mean, we could do a better job,” he said, taking a good-natured jab at his fellow Republican and the last one to have his portrait hung before all were removed for the $310 million Capitol remodeling.

Meanwhile, a series of paintings depicting Civil War battles were being returned to the Governor’s Reception Room and main lobby on Friday and Saturday.