COVID-19 Updates: The Wisconsin Historical Society hours have changed. See a full list of COVID-19 Closures and Events HERE.

Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

Share Your Voice: Eagle River

Vilas County residents discuss plans for a new Wisconsin history museum

Share Your Voice: Eagle River | Wisconsin Historical Society
Craig Root, right, and Tobi Johannsen enjoy a laugh as they think of ideas to write down May 30, 2019 during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session in Eagle River.

Craig Root, right, and Tobi Johannsen, left, enjoy a laugh as they think of ideas to write down during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 30, 2019 at the Walter E. Olson Memorial Library in Eagle River. The event gathered local ideas and feedback to early concept exhibit designs for a new state-of-the-art, $120 million Wisconsin history museum that will be built on the Capitol Square in Madison and digitally connect cities across the state. 

 

Story and photos by Laura Ingersoll
Wisconsin Historical Foundation

EAGLE RIVER — “Welcome to this little slice of heaven we call Eagle River. Home to the World’s Largest Chain of 28 Connected Lakes and also known as the Snowmobile Capital of the World®. We’re no stranger to fun. In fact, we’re no stranger to anything really. We’re a bunch of folks who are down to earth and down for some good times all year round. So, take a look at all we have to offer. We look forward to your visit.”

When your town’s website can honestly list that as the introductory paragraph, you know it is a great place.

Residents of Eagle River and Vilas County came together at Eagle River's Walter E. Olson Memorial Library May 30, 2019 for the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session, one of more than 40 it is holding across the state to offer residents a chance to share ideas and provide feedback on preliminary concept exhibit design renderings for a new $120 million Wisconsin history museum that it plans to build on the state’s Capitol Square. The new museum is slated to open by 2024 or 2025 and will replace the current aging and undersized Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison.

EnlargeKaren Sailor, president of the Eagle River Historical Society, welcomes guests to the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River.

Karen Sailer, president of the Eagle River Historical Society, welcomes guests to the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River. Sailer's organization was the local sponsor for the event, which generated ideas and feedback for a new state history museum to be built on the Capitol Square in Madison.

The session was kicked off by Karen Sailer, president of the Eagle River Historical Society, who stated “I know you are all going to be as wowed as I was,” referring to her first glimpse at the new Wisconsin history museum concept renderings.

Sailer then introduced Alicia Goehring, Director of Special Projects and Interim Director of Programs and Outreach for the Wisconsin Historical Society. Goehring led the group through some background information and introduced everyone to the new museum project with a Society video about the project and the museum's main storytelling theme, "What Makes Wisconsin, Wisconsin?" Details on the project, as well as the video, can be found online at wisconsinhistory.org/newmuseum.

The group was first asked to share ideas about “What Makes Wisconsin, Wisconsin?” to them, and what the rest of the state and world should know about what makes Eagle River and the Vilas County area special. Guests wrote their thoughts on Post-It notes and shared comments about the many qualities about their part of the state.

The word cloud generate from the session (see below) really says it all, as it reveals that many of the topics that came up repeatedly were related to the lakes, rivers, fishing, outdoor recreation, and tourism industries. And one guest said, “You just gotta say the supper clubs and the brandy Old Fashioneds!” Another guest mentioned that “Vilas County has one of the greatest concentrations of fresh water in the world.”

Other topics discussed were the large amount of artists in the area, the vast ethinic diversity that “works together as a unit,” and, of course, bald eagles. “Vilas County has the largest number of nested eagles in Wisconsin”

The program then turned to a review of concept exhibit design renderings and how they will impact the overall guest experience at the new museum. Guests were asked to offer their feedback on packet of the renderings so the Society can record comments and use them to inform the next phase of design. As Goehring displayed each rendering, she polled the room to see the group’s general response. Guests also shared more specific feedback about each design.

Guests generally liked the rendering of a large "Introduction and Orientation" area, which is a big, open room that features a giant digital screen of potentially dozens of images (or one large one). Another rendering showed how the atrium-like space could be transformed into a program area, with seats, that could digitally connect programming with cities across the state. Most people liked that idea, though one guest mentioned that he didn’t see the “story” in this part of the concept, and that should be explored.

EnlargeAlicia Goehring, Director of Special Projects and Interim Director of Outreach for the Wisconsin Historical Society, leads a discussion during the "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River.

Alicia Goehring, Director of Special Projects and Interim Director of Programs and Outreach for the Wisconsin Historical Society, leads a discussion during the "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River.

Conversation moved to an "Agricultural Ingenuity" rendering, featuring wild ricing and cranberry harvesting. This concept prompted a good amount of discussion. One guest said “the idea of seeing wild rice harvesting would give a different perspective and a different idea about agriculture on a different timeline.” All guests appreciated the immersive and interactive qualities of this exhibit.

When Goehring said "Let’s go back to our friendly cow,” guests chuckled. She was speaking of a rendering of a whimsical art installation of a giant cow comprised of objects representing all 72 counties of Wisconsin. One guest said he likes the idea of a piece of artwork highlighting all 72 counties, whether it’s a cow or a rowboat or something else. However, another person wondered if it was a wise choice. “We’re no longer the largest milk producer in the U.S. and we’re losing family farms by the month," the guest said, "so I question the symbol of the cow to represent Wisconsin.”

A "Celebrating Community Introductory Theatre" concept showed one of the more intimate theatre areas that would be in the museum and provide space for teachers and student groups to learn. The youngest guest in the room commented that when he visited an American Indian community as part of a school field trip, he had the opportunity to participate in a pow wow and he thought this space would be perfect for something like that.

For the final activity, Goehring asked guests to share their most memorable museum experiences. The  youngest one immediately spoke up and shared his enthusiasm for the wax figures at the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield. There was a lot of nodding and agreement about the Streets of Old Milwaukee experience at the Milwaukee Public Museum, as well as the Smithsonian's Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Both of those experiences brought history to life and made the visitor feel an emotional connection to the past.

All in all it was a wonderful evening in Eagle River. Guests were engaged and excited to share their thoughts!

Suggestions made on Post-It notes during the Wisconsin Historical Society's May 30, 2019 "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session in Eagle River were turned into this word cloud, with the most suggested words in the biggest type.


Word cloud from Eagle River listening session

Suggestions made on Post-It notes during the Wisconsin Historical Society's May 30, 2019 "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session in Eagle River were turned into this word cloud, with the most suggested words in the biggest type.

Michelle Root-McDaniel and Grant Meyer (left) smile as another guest tells a story during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River.

Michelle Root-McDaniel and Grant Meyer (left) smile as another guest tells a story during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River.

James Hardy of Rhinelander laughs at a comment while his wife, Diane Dei Rossi, writes comments on a packet of exhibit design renderings during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River.

James Hardy of Rhinelander laughs at a comment while his wife, Diane Dei Rossi, writes comments on a packet of exhibit design renderings during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River. Dei Rossi is a member of the Wisconsin Historical Foundation's Board of Directors.

(From left) Barbara Nehring, Chris Tews and Lois Bates of the Land O' Lakes Historical Society write down ideas on Post-It notes during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session in Eagle River.

(From left) Barbara Nehring, Chris Tews and Lois Bates of the Land O' Lakes Historical Society's NorthernWaters Museum write down ideas on Post-It notes during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 30, 2019 at the Walter E. Olson Memorial Library in Eagle River.

Sheree Peterson, Vice President of the Bayfield County Historical Society, reviews a packet of renderings of concept exhibit designs for a future Wisconsin history museum  during the Wisconsin Historical Society's listening session in Eagle River.

Sheree Peterson, vice president of the Bayfield County Historical Society,
reviews a packet of renderings of concept exhibit designs for a future Wisconsin
history museum May 30, 2019 during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share
Your Voice" new museum listening session in Eagle River.

A young man at a listening session in Eagle River reviews concept exhibit design renderings for a new state history museum the Wisconsin Historical Society is planning to build in Madison.

A young man reviews a packet of concept exhibit design renderings for a new state history museum the Wisconsin Historical Society is planning to build on the Capitol Square in Madison. Guests offered their thoughts about the renderings at the Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 30, 2019 at the Walter E. Olson Memorial Library in Eagle River.

Craig Moore, left, and Matt Blessing, the Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society's Library, Archives and Museum Collections, discuss rare artifacts from the Society's collections on display at the new museum listening session in Eagle River.

Craig Moore, left, and Matt Blessing, Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society's Library, Archives and Museum Collections, discuss rare artifacts from the Society's collections on display at the new museum listening session in Eagle River. Among them was video footage of Vilas County resorts from the 1940s, a shawl worn by Abraham Lincoln (end of table), and sketches from an 1849 Gold Rush trek through the Oregon Trail.

Carol Tews, left, of the Land O' Lakes Historical Society, and Matt Blessing, Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society's Library, Archives and Museum Collections, discuss rare artifacts from the Society's collections on display in Eagle River.

Carol Tews of the Land O' Lakes Historical Society, and Matt Blessing, Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society's Library, Archives and Museum Collections, discuss rare artifacts from the Society's collections on display at the new museum listening session in Eagle River. Among them was 1940s video footage of Vilas County resorts, and a shawl worn by President Abraham Lincoln en route to his second Inaugural.

Guests talk among themselves during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River.

Guests talk among themselves during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session May 30, 2019 at the Walter E. Olson Memorial Library in Eagle River.

Karen Sailer, president of the Eagle River Historical Society, makes a point from the back of the room as guests discuss new museum ideas during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River.

Karen Sailer, president of the Eagle River Historical Society, makes a point from the back of the room as guests discuss new museum ideas during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session May 30, 2019 at the Walter E. Olson Memorial Library in Eagle River.

Lori Berryman, secretary of the Dr. Kate Museum in Woodruff, writes her comments on a packet of concept exhibit design renderings during the Wisconsin Historical Society's new museum listening session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River.

Lori Berryman, secretary of the Dr. Kate Museum in Woodruff, writes her comments on a packet of concept exhibit design renderings during the Wisconsin Historical Society's new museum listening session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River.

Grant Meyer of Eagle River jots down his thoughts about concept exhibit designs for a new Wisconsin history museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session May 30, 2019 in Eagle River.

Grant Meyer of Eagle River jots down his thoughts about concept exhibit designs for a new Wisconsin history museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session May 30, 2019 at the Walter E. Olson Memorial Library in Eagle River.

It's not surprising that a theme board touting Wisconsin's natural resources drew a large amount of Post-It note comments from guests at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session in Eagle River.

It's not surprising that a theme board touting Wisconsin's natural
resources drew a large amount of Post-It note comments from guests
at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum
listening session in Eagle River.

 

Share Your Voice statewide map

"SHARE YOUR VOICE" STATEWIDE SESSION LOCATIONS