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Share Your Voice: Green Bay

Area residents discuss plans for a new Wisconsin history museum

Share Your Voice: Green Bay | Wisconsin Historical Society
A guest examines an early concept exhibit design rendering during the Wisconsin Historical Society's Feb. 12, 2019 "Share Your Voice" new museum public listening session in Green Bay.


A guest examines an early concept exhibit design rendering during the Wisconsin Historical Society's Feb. 12, 2019 "Share Your Voice" new museum public listening session at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay. The event was co-sponsored by the Neville and the Brown County Federation of History Organizations.

 

Story and photos by Kara O'Keeffe
Wisconsin Historical Society 

GREEN BAY — Residents of the city affectionately known as Titletown ventured out and braved the snow during Winter Storm Destiny on Feb. 12 to provide feedback and learn more about the Wisconsin Historical Society’s new state history museum project during the second “Share Your Voice” statewide engagement session of 2019. Dozens more will be held across the state through June.

The evening event took place at the Neville Public Museum, where guests dove deep into the rich history of Green Bay and the Brown County area. Beth Lemke, executive director of the Neville, welcomed guests and stressed the importance of participating in a project that will bring the state’s history alive for the next generation. The evening was also co-hosted by the Brown County Federation of History Organizations. 

“We are really glad you are all here to give the Wisconsin Historical Society input on this project,” said Lemke. “I don’t know if many of you know, but before I came to the Neville, I worked at the Wisconsin Historical Museum on the Capitol Square. I can tell you firsthand how much this program and this project is a much-needed asset for the State of Wisconsin. The collection is vast, it’s a very important piece of Wisconsin and the nation’s history.”

Lemke also mentioned how the Society’s commitment to traveling across the state to many communities strengthens partnerships across the state.

Christian Øverland, the Ruth and Hartley Barker Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society, also thanked guests for coming out on such a snowy night. He introduced staff as well as Cate Zeuske and Mary Jane Herber, members of the Society’s Board of Curators (BOC) who were in attendance. Øverland then introduced the project and told guests, “Being here means a lot to us and the whole idea is to get your feedback and for us to listen. It’s now your time to share your story.”

Guests watched a video introducing the project and heard about the need for not only a new state history museum, but also a place to share the stories of the people of Wisconsin.

During the first workshop activity, guests were asked to write down on Post-It notes words or phrases that represent their area of the state.

Among the words and phrases they shared: “The Green Bay area was first populated by the Menomonee Indians,” “early commerce on the Fox River,” “Punk music hotbed of the ’70s,” “the amazing Native American heritage, past & present,” “the great exploration 400 years ago of Jean Nicolet,” “Booyah” and “our region is the oldest county in Wisconsin.”

The paper industry was another idea as well as “green” leaders in the business world headquartered in Green Bay.

Of course, the Green Bay Packers, for whom the city earned the Titletown nickname, came up when Øverland read a Post-It note that said, “America’s only professional sports team owned by the public.” A few attendees noted, however, that they wanted to make sure that Green Bay was not just known for the Packers, but also for its diverse industries and people.

Guests were then provided a packet that included images of early exhibit design renderings. 

“What you are about to see are concepts for the new museum,” Øverland said. “The footprint on this building is massive, around 100,000 square feet.”

He stressed why a new museum was needed by saying, “What we don’t have now is enough room for all of the school children that come through our doors, not enough space for all of the artifacts, or climate controlled air.”

Øverland described how the Society collection includes a shawl that Abraham Lincoln wore from Illinois to Washington, D.C., but how the current museum doesn’t have the capability of producing the environmental conditions necessary to safely display such a delicate object of national significance. Lack of adequate space is an issue with other objects: “We also can’t put our beloved Wienermobile in the museum,” Øverland said. “It won’t fit through the doors.”

Before the discussion on the renderings began, Øverland quizzed the audience about where the Society’s first local affiliate came from. Mary Jane Herber excitedly raised her hand and correctly said, “Oct. 12, 1889, the Green Bay Historical Society became the first affiliate.” Currently, there are 410 local affiliates across the state, evidence of the Society’s statewide reach. 

When discussing renderings that show how the museum orientation space and its giant video boards can transform into a presentation space, BOC member Zeuske said, “Since most students visit the State Capitol and then the historical museum if they have time, I have a vision that if a school from Green Bay is visiting the Capitol and then they go over to the museum that a Green Bay legislator can meet them in this space and the panels could be tailored to show photos from the [Green Bay] region, from 100 years ago and other decades, so that kids could really recognize that, ‘Wow, all of this is in Madison! So our history must be important to more than just our area.’”

Another guest added: “There’s something special about walking into a room and seeing a large mural like this and seeing something in a high resolution so that if you walked up to the photos, you would see, for example, the dirt on the ice skates from that picture.”

Some guests expressed concern about the reliability of high-tech features such as the giant video screen, worrying that if it failed, museum guests would be disappointed. 

Another mentioned a mural at the Brown County Museum and how the grandeur and scale of something so large really captures guests’ attention.

Speaking about the presentation space, one guest who liked it said, “It’s innovative, it breaks out of that same old presentation at museums.” Another gentleman said, “This type of space celebrates communities because there is interactivity.”

Conversations continued with the other renderings and the evening ended with guests discussing museums or exhibit experiences that moved them. 

One guest mentioned the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois. “It makes my heart start thumping just thinking about it. The trauma he was dealing with and the responsibility, it just weighed on his face, and every time you transitioned throughout the museum you could see it. There was also a lot of interaction. You got a sense of community and a sense of who he was.”

Among other experiences that left a deep impression on guests included Hawaii's USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas.

One gentleman said it was particularly moving “when you look at an object think about the significance of it (and) why it matters. Objects can turn a visit into an emotional experience, which is what I’ve had.”

 

The director of the host site Neville Public Museum in Green Bay welcomes guests to the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new state history museum listening session Feb. 12, 2019 in Green Bay.


Beth Lemke, executive director of the host site Neville Public Museum in Green Bay welcomes guests to the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new state history museum listening session Feb. 12, 2019. "Before I came to the Neville, I worked at the Wisconsin Historical Museum on the Capitol Square," she said. "I can tell you firsthand how much this program and this project is a much-needed asset for the State of Wisconsin. The collection is vast, it’s a very important piece of Wisconsin and the nation’s history.”

Christian Overland (right), the Ruth and Hartley Barker Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society, chats with guests at the "Share Your Voice" new state history museum listening session Feb. 12, 2019 at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay.

Christian Øverland (right), the Ruth and Hartley Barker Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society, chats with guests at the "Share Your Voice" new state history museum listening session Feb. 12, 2019 at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay.

Guests at the Green Bay "Share Your Voice" session used Post-It notes to share words and phrases that describe their area and could be used to inform storytelling in a new state history museum.


Guests at the Green Bay "Share Your Voice" session used Post-It notes to share words and phrases that describe their area and could be used to inform storytelling in a new state history museum.

This word cloud is made from words and phrases offered by guests at the Green Bay "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session. Thank you for your participation!


Green Bay "Share Your Voice" Word Cloud

This word cloud is made from words and phrases offered by guests at the Green Bay "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session. Thank you for your participation!

  

Share Your Voice statewide map

"SHARE YOUR VOICE" STATEWIDE SESSION LOCATIONS