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Share Your Voice: Platteville

Area residents discuss plans for a new Wisconsin history museum

Share Your Voice: Platteville | Wisconsin Historical Society
A woman offers her ideas about a new Wisconsin history museum to be located on Capitol Square in Madison during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


A woman offers her ideas about a new Wisconsin history museum to be located on Wisconsin's Capitol Square in Madison during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library. The event was co-sponsored by UW-Platteville, the Grant County Historical Society and the Mining and Rollo Jamison Museums

 

Story and photos by Julia Pafford
Wisconsin Historical Foundation

PLATTEVILLE — The Platteville Public Library was a perfect setting for the Wisconsin Historical Society’s “Share Your Voice” new museum public listening session on May 2, 2019. The attendees filled almost every seat in the room for what turned out to be a productive evening of discussion about local history, museum experiences, and the importance of three dimensional objects in museum storytelling. 

It was one of more than 40 sessions that the Society is holding across Wisconsin. The “Share Your Voice” tour is meant to share early concept exhibit design plans and seek public feedback on a new Wisconsin history museum. The new museum is currently slated to open by 2024 or 2025 and will replace the current aging and undersized Wisconsin Historical Museum on Wisconsin’s Capitol Square in Madison.

EnlargeDr. Gene Tesdahl from the UW-Platteville History Department welcomes guests to the "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 2, 2019 in Platteville.


Dr. Gene Tesdahl from the UW-Platteville History Department welcomes guests to the "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 2, 2019 in Platteville.

The event was led by Alicia Goehring, the Society’s Director of Special Projects. She was welcomed by leaders of two local organizations: Dr. Gene Tesdahl from the UW-Platteville History Department and Dr. Rachel Lewis, the director of the Grant County Historical Society.

“I would like to start with some words of welcome and gratitude,” Tesdahl said in opening the session. “Often in many of my classes, I like to start by thanking the indigenous nations who have lived in the areas where I’m speaking.” 

Tesdahl led the group through words of gratitude in the languages of the Ho-Chunk, the Sac and Fox Nation, and the Potawatomi.

Lewis highlighted the Grant County Historical Society’s work, and connected it to the Society’s efforts. “What’s important here is that we are sharing our voice, sharing our history,” she said.

Goehring welcomed guests and thanked the event’s co-sponsors, UW-Platteville, the Grant County Historical Society and the Mining and Rollo Jamison Museums. She particularly highlighted UW-Platteville’s partnership with the Society. “I will tell you that in the Wisconsin Historical Society, particularly in my division of Programs and Outreach, the UW-Platteville staff are known as rock stars,” she said. 

EnlargeAlicia Goehring, Director of Special Projects at the Wisconsin Historical Society, welcomes guests to the Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 in Platteville.


Alicia Goehring, Director of Special Projects at the Wisconsin Historical Society, welcomes guests to the Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 in Platteville.

Goehring went on to explain why the Society is touring the state. 

“We’re not doing this because I like to stay at Holiday Inn Expresses,” she said. “We’re doing this because we’re in the very early stages of planning a new state history museum, and you can’t plan a state history museum by sitting in a conference room in Madison.” 

Goehring then introduced a video about the new museum project and its storytelling theme — “What Makes Wisconsin, Wisconsin?” — before leading three workshop-type activities in which guests shared topics of local importance, reacted to early concept exhibit design renderings and told stories of memorable museum experiences.

During the first activity, attendees used Post-It notes to share things about the Platteville area or state in general that make Wisconsin, Wisconsin. Society staff collected the notes and posted them on five theme boards posted across the front of the room.

Goehring asked a few guests to share what they wrote. One man said that the area was home to First Capitol and the state’s first university. Others spoke about the area’s American Indian history, the legacy of mining, and Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.

EnlargeRachel Lewis, director of the Grant County Historical Society, welcomes guests to the May 2, 2019 "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session, which her organization co-sponsored with the Wisconsin Historical Society and UW-Platteville.


Dr. Rachel Lewis, director of the Grant County Historical Society, welcomes guests to the May 2, 2019 "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session, which her organization co-sponsored with the Wisconsin Historical Society, UW-Platteville and the Mining and Rollo Jamisons Museums.

Attendees brought up more difficult aspects of the area’s history as well. 

A woman said that the Wisconsin’s first territorial governor, Henry Dodge, owned slaves, even though Wisconsin was supposed to be a free territory. A man highlighted the forced removal of both the Meskwaki and Ho-Chunk. “I think it’s important to not forget those ugly chapters of our region as well,” he said.

In the next activity, guests reviewed several concept exhibit design renderings developed by Gallagher & Associates, the internationally renowned firm based in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Goehring asked guests to share how they felt about each rendering. “Not a single one of these ideas were my idea,” she said. “So tell us what you really think.” 

Guests had mixed feelings about many of the renderings, including the Introduction and Orientation Media Experience, which features a large projection wall that could be transformed into a digital distance learning or program space that connects to the rest of the state. 

One guest shared, “I liked how the space could be used for multiple purposes. The images are very engaging.” 

Another guest agreed, but added that she felt the space would be improved by the addition of seating. “I think there should be some seating, especially for the elderly, and mothers with babies and dads with babies,” she said, “just to be able to sit down and study the photos and enjoy it.”

The introduction space also brought up concerns about incorporating the Society’s vast collections. 

“My own personal feeling is that people visit museums to see three-dimensional objects,” a man said. “It’s great to have immersive experiences, but I would hate to see the tremendous three-dimensional object collection of the Historical Society minimized to show photos that I can see online any time.” 

A rendering of a potential art installation shaped like a cow comprised of items from all 72 counties in Wisconsin was a topic of debate, as has been the case at many listening sessions.

“I like the idea of something that represents every single county,” Lewis said. “I don’t think that this is the way to execute it. But I like trying to find a unifying theme and something that people can then explore on their own.”

“Sometimes it’s neat when you take artifacts and objects and then weld them together into art,” added Tesdahl. “But maybe we should look at those artifacts, rather than smashing them together.”

For the third activity, Goehring asked guests to share a memorable museum or cultural experience to help the Society understand what leaves a lasting impression on visitors.

Attendees spoke about museums from the Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, to the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois, to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

One man brought up one of the Society’s own historic sites: Old World Wisconsin, located in the Waukesha County village of Eagle in southeast Wisconsin. 

“It tells you what your ancestors did and went through when they got over here,” he said. “Start to think about doing that at 20 [degrees] below.” 

Another man shared why he loves the Milwaukee Public Museum, and expanded on why he believes objects are important to the museum experience.

“I really think museums play an important role by seeing an object and being intrigued by it and then going home and doing your own research about that object,” said Erik Flesch, Director of the Mining and Rollo Jamison Museums in Platteville. “I think that’s a really, really important part of what a museum can do.”

Following the third activity, Goehring invited Susan Caya-Slusser, the Society’s Southwest Sites Regional Director, to speak about the Society’s historic sites and museums in the Platteville region.

Caya-Slusser shared some opportunities to visit the First Capitol outside Belmont, Pendarvis in Mineral Point, Stonefield in Cassville, and Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien. 

Caya-Slusser concluded by sharing her enthusiasm for the “Share Your Voice” sessions. 

“This is exciting,” she said. “This is my first time being a part of the ‘Share Your Voice’ [sessions], and I’m all in. Let’s go, Alicia!”

Goehring closed the session by inviting guests to reach out and to continue sharing their voices as the project progresses.  

“We sincerely mean that we want to hear from you,” she said. “Keep informed. Keep the comments coming.” 

 

 

Suggestions made on Post-It notes during the Wisconsin Historical Society's May 2, 2019 "Share Your Voice" new museum public listening session in Platteville were turned into this word cloud, with the most suggested words in the biggest type.


Platteville "Share Your Voice" word cloud

Suggestions made on Post-It notes during the Wisconsin Historical Society's May 2, 2019 "Share Your Voice" new museum public listening session in Platteville were turned into this word cloud, with the most suggested words in the biggest type.


Photos from the Platteville "Share Your Voice" session

A man offers ideas about what should be included in a new state history museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


Erik Flesch, middle, Director of the Mining and Rollo Jamison Museums in Platteville, offers ideas about what should be included in a new state history museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library. Also pictured are Dr. Rachel Lewis, left, Grant County Historical Society Director, and Jim Stroschein of Mineral Point.

Susan Caya-Slusser, the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Southwest Sites Regional Director, helps a guest at the Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


Susan Caya-Slusser, the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Southwest Sites Regional Director, chats with Jim Stroschein of Mineral Point during the Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library. 

A young guest offers his thoughts about the new museum project during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


A young guest offers his thoughts about the new museum project during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.

A young guest offers his thoughts about the new museum project during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


Guests write down suggestions on Post-It notes as part of an exercise during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.

A woman shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


A woman shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library. 

A woman shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


A woman shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.

Guests write their comments about concept exhibit design renderings during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


Guests write their comments about concept exhibit design renderings during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library. 

A guest shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


Justine Fuller shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.

A woman shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


Dr. Rachel Lewis, Director of the Grant County Historical Society, shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.

A woman shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


A woman enjoys a chuckle as she shares her ideas during a discussion at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.

A woman shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


A woman shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.

A woman shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.


A woman shares her thoughts about plans for a new museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" session May 2, 2019 at the Platteville Public Library.