Since its beginnings in 1846, the State Historical Society of Wisconsin has become one of the largest, most active, and most diversified institutions of its kind in the country. The headquarters building, located on the Library Mall of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, houses all of the Society's programs with the exception of its seven historic sites and the State Historical Museum, which is located on the Capitol Concourse in Madison.
The Archives Division's ever-growing collections provide national resources on a wide variety of topics in Wisconsin and American history, including the development of the West, the labor movement, mass communications, women's history, Social Security, genealogy, and the civil rights movement. The archives also holds a large quantity of material relating to World War II and especially to Wisconsin's participation in the war effort, but until now there has never been a comprehensive list of all available resources. This publication represents an attempt to provide patrons with a compact and convenient research aid that will make World War II resources more accessible.
This guide describes material ranging from prewar conditions in Germany and accounts of Japanese aggression in China during the 1930s to the postwar Allied occupation and the activities of various veterans' organizations. The types of documents described include diaries, correspondence, memoirs, oral histories, and many business records relating to the war. The perspectives represented encompass those of servicemen and -women, Holocaust survivors, and conscientious objectors. In addition, there is a great deal of material relating to the home front in Wisconsin. In short, almost anything relating to the war, at home or abroad, has been included.
The guide contains descriptions of material in a variety of formats, including manuscripts (papers collected from individuals or organizations), state and local government records, maps, sound recordings, films, and photographs, all of which are housed in the Archives Division. Unlike the library, which houses books, serials, and other published items, the material held by the archives is generally unpublished and frequently unique. (The chief exception is the map collection, which is part of the Archives Division because of its physical format.)
These characteristics affect the way in which research material comes to the archives and the way in which material is arranged and described for research use. Understanding how resources have been assembled and how to use the special finding aids should help patrons become more effective researchers.
By statute, the Archives Division is the official depository for the records of permanent value created by the state government of Wisconsin and by county and local governmental units. The Archives Division of the State Historical Society is not responsible for records of the federal government; they are held by the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
The Archives Division collects unpublished historical documents from private sources. The scope of these holdings is defined by the archives' responsibility to document broadly Wisconsin history and by national collecting in the areas of labor history, mass communications, and social action. (In addition, motion picture and theater history are national collecting emphases of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research [WCFTR], whose collections are housed in the Historical Society building.) This collecting history explains, for example, why the archives holds many collections donated by war correspondents but no letters written by GIs from Illinois or Michigan. Similarly, the ownership of the United Artists records by the WCFTR explains why the Center's motion picture holdings are strongly skewed toward films distributed or owned by that company.
In addition to private records, the Archives Division also holds Wisconsin governmental records, which are arranged by the agency that created them and are not classified by subject. Information about World War II in governmental records is therefore most efficiently accessed by locating the records of those agencies associated with particular wartime functions, such as gas rationing or scrap-metal drives. In addition, virtually all of Wisconsin's governmental agencies that existed during the war created records that may be useful for a period study, but this guide lists only those that have been previously catalogued to highlight a strong connection with the war period.
Because of their volume, collections relating to collective bargaining and labor relations during World War II--including those containing documentation regarding the National War Labor Board--have not been included. Such materials can be easily located using resources in the Archives Research Room.
Another important difference between archives and libraries is that archival material is not individually described. Instead, regardless of the nature of its physical format, archival documentation is grouped according to its common origins and described collectively in what are called finding aids. These guides, prepared by the archives, provide researchers with a general understanding of the documentation contained in a particular collection, series, or photo lot. Except in rare cases, the finding aids are not an item index. For example, researchers in the Historical Society's archives should not expect to find a list of every letter that refers to the D-Day invasion, of every document that refers to gas rationing, or of every photograph of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Instead, the finding aids will point researchers to collections that prominently document these subjects or to sources that may provide useful information.
Although archival material from a common source is described collectively, the special conservation needs and reference problems of photographs, sound recordings, and films have dictated that these materials be stored separately. A typical collection, for example, may include paper records, which are available in the Archives Research Room, and related photographs, sound recordings, or films, which are available in the Visual and Sound Archives search rooms. Although this guide reflects the separate administrative handling of materials, cross-references and the index will help researchers locate all related materials, as will other internal pointers available in the reading rooms.
The guide is divided into three sections: manuscripts and government records (including maps), visual and sound materials (including photographs), and films. Each section is preceded by an introduction that explains how to access the materials. Within each section, collections are arranged alphabetically. Each entry contains the title of the collection; its dates, size, call number, and quantity; and a brief description of the contents. In cases where only a portion of a large collection relates to World War II, the date and quantity refer to the entire collection, and the narrative specifies the nature of the World War II-related material. Appendices at the back of this guide provide lists of collections arranged by geographic area (Pacific and China-Burma-India theater, European theater, African theater, home front) and by type of material (letters, diaries, reminiscences/histories/interviews, scrapbooks, organizational/corporate records, and mass communications-related materials). An index to personal and organizational names and to subjects is also included.
Collections that contain material from a variety of different sources (for example, the Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust Oral History Project, which contains individual accounts from more than twenty people), are listed in the guide under the general collection name. The card catalog and register in the Archives Research Room will contain all the individual names.
Some entries contain cross-references to related collections listed elsewhere in the guide. For example, if photographs have been separated from a manuscript collection and the photographs concern World War II, a cross-reference is provided so that users of the guide will be directed between entries in the manuscript and photograph sections. When photographs or any other separated material is not relevant to the war, no cross-reference is provided. The numbers used in all such references are the entry numbers in this guide. The film section of the guide has not been cross-referenced with the rest of the material.
Films are numbered separately from the rest of the guide, and they have not been incorporated into the appendices and index.
Access to a few collections is restricted and requires advance arrangements and permission. All such restrictions are noted in the guide entries. Not specifically noted is the fact that many collections are covered by the legal provisions of copyright, which could affect researchers who seek to publish quotations or reproductions from collections. The researcher is responsible for ascertaining whether copyright provisions apply and for obtaining proper publication permission from the appropriate parties.
Aside from a limited group of records from the Wisconsin National Guard, the Society does not hold any military personnel records. For information on individual veterans, please contact the National Personnel Records Center, GSA (Military Personnel Records), 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63132.
All hours of operation provided in this guide are accurate as of the time of publication; however, the hours are subject to change. Patrons are urged to call ahead to confirm that all areas that they wish to use are open and that collections are available.
Finally, we have attempted to be as accurate and comprehensive as possible. The Society is constantly acquiring new collections, however, so please consult with the appropriate reference staff regarding any material accessioned after September 1993.