Archivist teaches UWP history using image collection

he University of Wisconsin- Platteville has undergone significant changes over the years. From Platteville Academy to Platteville Normal School, from Platteville Mining School, to the university that we now know today. Although it no longer features a bowling alley, ice rink or an orchard on campus grounds, it is rich in history and offers much to be celebrated.

As part of Homecoming week festivities, James Hibbard, Archivist for the University of Wisconsin- Platteville, gave a presentation on the University’s Historic Images Collections in the Harry and Laura Nohr Gallery on Oct. 2.

“The photos in the collection are of superb quality,” Zora Sampson, Director of Karrmann Librarian, said. “These historic images are available to the world.”

The images from the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections illustrate the university’s history. Some of the oldest photos from campus included ones taken of Platteville Academy, built in 1842. The academy had a Presbyterian Church on the ground floor and was one of the earliest framed buildings in the area. That land is now used for apartments today.

Platteville Academy transitioned to Platteville Normal School in 1866, and included a model school complete with a grade school, where student teachers and education majors were trained on campus.
“Doudna was the last location for the model school, complete with lockers on the walls,” Hibbard said.

Platteville Academy served as the main educational center for Platteville higher education, until the famous “Old Main” was built in 1897.

“The thing that surprised me most is that Old Main didn’t burn,” Wendell Rice, lifelong Platteville resident and retired Platteville firefighter said.

In this time before electricity, students relied on the lighting from an open courtyard, which Old Main was built around. However, not all students learned indoors. The university has long offered agricultural courses; complete with two college farms and a barn that once stood where the Markee Pioneer Student Center is now.

Although the campus’s layout has changed, the presence of school spirit at the University has not. Football is rooted in Platteville tradition, as school’s past administration ended football games between the Mining school and Normal school because of a heated rivalry.

These stories and more have played integral roles in campus life, inspiring the original Platteville Academy newspaper, the handwritten Students’ OLIO. Begun by the students, it was less of a newspaper and more of an editorial on student life  which included fictional stories.
Following the OLIO, the Mining and Engineering School paper, Geode, helped pave the way for The Platteville Normal School’s paper, Normal Exponent, which started publication in 1889, making the Exponent the oldest continuously published student newspaper in the state of Wisconsin.

To learn more and view the images from this presentation, visit the UW Platteville Historic Images Collections online at