Why Were Two Iconic Replacements Photos Removed From the University of Minnesota?

One report suggested a cigarette in one photo was to blame

The Replacements
The Replacements at at First Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1988.
Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Few regions have embraced their own musical history to the degree that the Twin Cities have. There are plenty of great reasons for that — and hey, if Prince, The Replacements and Hüsker Dü all rose to prominence from the same setting within a few years of one another, that place is entitled to many a victory lap.

This week, one of the Twin Cities’ educational institutions came into conflict with one of its musical institutions. Multiple librarians at the University of Minnesota took to Twitter to report that a pair of photos of The Replacements taken by Let It Be cover photographer Daniel Corrigan, which had long been on display at the school’s Coffman Memorial Union, were no longer there.

When one of the librarians — @snackeru on Twitter — asked at the building’s welcome desk, he was told that it was because Replacements singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg was visibly smoking in one, and students had complained about it.

Stereogum looked into the issue and learned that there might be more to it than college students taking a strong position against tobacco use. As Chris Deville reports, the university’s office of Student Unions and Activities provided a very different answer — in this case, saying that the student complaints had had nothing to do with the photos’ removal.

“The historic photos of The Replacements, which were displayed near the elevators in Coffman Memorial Union for nearly a decade, have been respectfully deaccessioned and returned to their owner,” the office said in a statement.

The response instead pointed to a potential change in how the area where the photos had been was used. “Student Unions & Activities is in the process of updating the wayfinding signage in the Union’s spaces to make it easier for all to navigate,” the office continued. “The space where the photos were displayed and others throughout the Union are being reevaluated as part of that larger project.”

The office also said that they were “considering ways to continue honoring this important piece of Gopher legacy in the future.”

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As another Twitter thread — this one by Chris Steller — pointed out, the Replacements had a long history with the building, including playing a number of fondly remembered shows there. Whether it really is due to changing signage or the cigarette played a role, it is a shame to see part of the city’s musical history packed away like this.

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