Objects of Wisconsin folk culture demonstrate the many ways in which people have communicated their ethnic, geographic, religious, and occupational identities to one another. They provide evidence of personal connections within and between cultures and across generations. An examination of how and why these artifacts were made and used sheds light on people's sense of self and community. The objects in this exhibition provide only a sampling of regional folk culture, but considered as a group, they help weave a tapestry that gives Wisconsin a distinctive sense of place.

These three objects are all similarly handmade duck decoys. Yet each communicates a different aspect of its carverís identity.

Personal Connections

Duck Decoy
by Fred Bleifernich,


Fred Bliefernich of Princeton, Wisconsin carved this male canvasback duck decoy for use in duck hunting. Though not an example of fine workmanship, this roughly carved, working decoy represents a personal connection between the hunter and a Wisconsin tradition.

Public Displays

Duck decoy
by Milton Geyer, 1989

Milton Geyer of Green Bay, Wisconsin began carving duck decoys in his youth as he hunted in northeastern Wisconsin. He finely detailed this male bluebill duck decoy beyond necessary for hunting as it was meant to display his carving abilities. Geyer's more recent decoys are just as likely to grace living rooms as Wisconsin waterways.


Rosemaled carved duck
by Vi Thode, 1987

Small and unnaturally decorated, this duck sculpture was fashioned for aesthetic, not practical reasons. Inspired by two Wisconsin folk practices (rosemaling and decoy making), Vi Thode of Stoughton, Wisconsin used her skill in a Norwegian-American folk art to decorate a classic symbol of Wisconsin duck hunting and woodcarving.