Wisconsin 101

Emily Byrns, [email protected].edu

On Jan. 31 in Dobson Hall, Tom Broman of the Wisconsin Historical Society from University of Wisconsin-Madison, came and presented to history students about a project he and his partner Sara Tahl, a professor of Japanese History at UW-Madison, have been working on called “Wisconsin 101: Our History in Objects.”

Broman and Tahl wanted to create a statewide project where people can contribute to the history of Wisconsin by writing articles, posting pictures, videos and music files to their website and to other previously written articles through hyperlinks. The main objective of this project is to tell stories of Wisconsin’s history through objects. “The project started five years ago when we noticed that the enrollment in history courses dropped due to the recession and students weren’t using history to go to law school anymore,” Broman said.   

The first desire of the project was to make students more interested in history. Broman and Tahl looked at “The History of the World in 100 Objects” at the British Museum for inspiration. This inspired them to start thinking about the objects of Wisconsin and how to present them. Broman and Tahl searched the internet for websites to model their website after and found Maine Memory Network. This caught their attention because people were able to post historical pieces to the site that were local and statewide. This, allowed a statewide audience instead of being limited to a local audience. One issue with the project is the audience that the project is reaching.

“We want to get Wisconsin 101 to teachers to use our website for resources. By having teachers use our website, it allows children to be familiar with it as they grow, spreading the audience,” Broman said.

The project has been up for three years and will continue to grow. Broman and Tahl are currently working on getting a half-built dam from the Kickapoo Valley Reserve to add to the collection of objects.

If you would like to learn more about Wisconsin 101: Our History in Objects please visit http://www.wi101.org/?story to see what it has to offer.