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Share Your Voice: Madison (Badger Rock Neighborhood Center)

Residents discuss plans for a new Wisconsin history museum

Share Your Voice: Madison (Badger Rock Neighborhood Center) | Wisconsin Historical Society
Alicia Goehring of the Wisconsin Historical Society enjoys a laugh with guests June 8, 2019 at the "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center in Madison.

Alicia Goehring (left), Special Projects Director and Interim Director of Programs & Outreach for the Wisconsin Historical Society, enjoys a laugh with guests June 8, 2019 at the "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center in Madison.

 

Story by Hannah Hankins, photos by Kristin Borst
Wisconsin Historical Foundation

MADISON — Residents of the Madison area enjoyed another opportunity to discuss plans for a new Wisconsin history museum June 8, 2019 when the Wisconsin Historical Society hosted its fifth “Share Your Voice” listening session in the city.

Guests filled a sunny multipurpose room at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, located just south of the Beltline near the intersection of Badger Road and Rimrock Road on Madison’s South Side.

EnlargeHeidi Rudd, Director of the Center for Resilient Cities, which is located inside the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, welcomes guests to the "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session at the neighborhood center on the South Side of Madison.

Heidi Rudd, Director of the Center for Resilient Cities, which is located inside the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, welcomes guests to the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session June 8, 2019 at the neighborhood center on the South Side of Madison.

Heidi Rudd, Director of the Center for Resilient Cities, which is located inside the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, welcomed guests to the event, which was one of more than 40 public listening sessions the Society is holding across the state to include residents in the early planning for a new $120 million state history museum it plans to build on the state’s Capitol Square. 

The Society is planning sessions at all 12 American Indian nations of Wisconsin, as well as eight special multicultural sessions, to be held with African Americans in Beloit, Madison and Milwaukee, the Latinx communities in Milwaukee, Madison and Wautoma, Asian Americans in Milwaukee, and the Hmong community in Eau Claire. In addition, the Society is gathering feedback from PK-12 and teen students to incorporate their ideas into museum planning, too.

The community sessions allow residents to offer their ideas and provide feedback on preliminary concept exhibit design renderings. The new museum is scheduled to open by 2024 or 2025 and will replace the current aging and undersized Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison, located since the 1980s in the space of a former hardware store.

Rudd talked about her organization before introducing Alicia Goehring, Director of Special Projects and Interim Director of Programs and Outreach for the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Goehring talked about the project and explained the location of the new museum, which would be part of a public-private overall development with the property owners surrounding the current museum. As a result, the new museum would enjoy an expanded footprint on the Capital Square in the first floors of the new development, increasing the space to 100,000 square feet.

Goehring explained the process for the project, noting that the Society was currently in the engagement phase, during which the organization is gathering input from residents across the state while also raising funds. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has included $70 million for the project in the 2019-21 Biennial Capital Budget it submitted for approval by the full Legislature, assuming the Society (through the Wisconsin Historical Foundation) will raise the remaining $30 million for the building. The Foundation is also raising an additional $20 million in private gifts for an endowment for museum operating expenses.

Guests learned more background about the project thanks to a Society video about 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.

Goehring then began the first activity by asking the group to write on Post-It notes what it was about their community that helped make Wisconsin, Wisconsin. That followed with a discussion of some of the suggestions.

The first comments were about the landscape, with one guest mentioning that we need to tell the story of “our glacial landscape in particular which really shaped our history.” 

That was followed by a guest saying stories should be told about the region being a hub for state government, “all the good and bad.” Goehring agreed, noting that this museum is meant to share the truth, and offer stories from multiple viewpoints and balanced voices along the way.

Other topics that came up were the University of Wisconsin-Madison (“one of the top research universities in the world”), Milwaukee’s contribution to the Underground Railroad and abolition, and the abundance of lakes in the Madison area.

The program then turned to review of the concept exhibit design renderings and the overall guest experience. Goehring explained each of the renderings that were included in a packet that was given to each attendee. Guests were asked to write their thoughts about the renderings and vote for their favorites, again followed by a discussion.

A potential exhibit called “Celebrating Community Introductory Theatre,” showed one of the more intimate theatre areas that would be in the museum and provide space for teachers and student groups to learn. One guest said she really liked the idea of a local community theater being able to use the spaces, while another guest agreed that a multipurpose space would be very useful for many groups in the community to use.

The next rendering reviewed was the Laboratory of Democracy concept, which featured a big window with a view of the Capitol across the street, as well as displays of historic newspapers from the Society’s collection, which is the largest in North America behind the Library of Congress.

One guest mentioned that “it’s really important in a ‘Laboratory of Democracy’ to see people interacting and talking to one another instead of looking at displays.” He proposed that kids visiting as part of tour groups could put on skits or plays of important events.

Conversation turned to a rendering of a whimsical art installation of a giant cow comprised of objects representing all 72 counties of Wisconsin. Guests generally liked the idea of somethingthat represents all 72 counties. One noted “if it’s truly going to be a museum for the state, it would be really nice to make it all inclusive for everyone” who lives in Wisconsin. Another person commented that he really liked the idea of “having a space that is for art. Telling the story of history being done through artistic expression and not just having a boring, stagnant interpretation of history.” Other guests shared that it didn’t really speak to them or seem like a valuable use of space.

Another concept exhibit was of a supper club experience. One guest wondered “if it could serve real food.” Another agreed that this would be a great addition to the space. Goehring suggested that there could be food samples in the space, or a waiting area right outside the actual restaurant that is planned for the museum. One attendee suggested there be an entrance from the street, and that the museum could advertise different themes during heritage months or for various celebrations.

For a final activity, Goehring asked guests to share their most memorable museum visits. 

Immediately, there were comments about immersive experiences. One guest reminisced about a World War I museum where “you walk into the museum [and] you’re on a walkway that’s over a field of poppies,” representing those who died in the war.

Another guest recalled a Brain Fair she attended, where guests could put gloves on and interact with real brains and have people explain to them what was happening in the different areas of the brain.

Another memorable experience was visiting The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. The guest who mentioned this added that they “really like museums that are set at the site of the actual place [and knowing] that you’re actually in the space where things happened.” 

The evening brought many smiles, laughs, sharing of memories, and thoughtful discussion about what people from the Madison are would want to see in a new Wisconsin history museum.  

Suggestions made on Post-It notes during the June 8, 2019 "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center in Madison were turned into this word cloud, with the most suggested words in the biggest type.

Madison (Badger Rock Neighborhood Center) Word Cloud

Suggestions made on Post-It notes during the June 8, 2019 "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center in Madison were turned into this word cloud, with the most suggested words in the biggest type.

A guest makes her point during a discussion at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session June 8, 2019 at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center in Madison.

A guest makes her point during a discussion at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session June 8, 2019 at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center in Madison.

 

Guests enjoy a laugh while discussion concept exhibit design renderings at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session June 8, 2019 at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center in Madison.

Guests enjoy a laugh while discussion concept exhibit design renderings at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session June 8, 2019 at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center in Madison.

A guest makes a comment during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session June 8, 2019 at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center on the South Side of Madison.

A guest makes a comment during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" new museum listening session June 8, 2019 at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center on the South Side of Madison.

Guests discuss concept exhibit designs for a new state history museum during the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session June 8, 2019 at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center on the South Side of Madison.

Guests consult their packet of concept exhibit designs for a new state history museum during a discussion at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session June 8, 2019 at the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center on the South Side of Madison.

Guests write down their comments in a packet of concept exhibit design renderings for a new state history museum June 8, 2019 at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session in Madison.

Guests write down their comments in a packet of concept exhibit design renderings for a new state history museum June 8, 2019 at the Wisconsin Historical Society's "Share Your Voice" listening session in Madison.

 

Share Your Voice statewide map

"SHARE YOUR VOICE" STATEWIDE SESSION LOCATIONS