Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

Fact Sheet for the Wisconsin Historical Society

Fact Sheet for the Wisconsin Historical Society | Wisconsin Historical Society

About Wisconsin Historical Society

EnlargeFront of the Wisconsin Historical Society HQ with blooming trees

Wisconsin Historical Society headquarters building in Madison, WI

The Wisconsin Historical Society is one of the largest, most active, and most diversified state historical societies in the nation. Founded in 1846, the Society is governed by a 27-member Board of Curators and is led by a management team. It is both a state agency and a private membership organization. It receives about 60 percent of its funding from the state of Wisconsin, and the other 40 percent comes through fundraising, federal grants and earned revenues.

Our Mission & Vision

The Wisconsin Historical Society helps people connect to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing stories. Learn more about our mission.

Visit Our Historic Sites and Museums

Black Point Estate, Lake Geneva, WI

Historic Home and Garden

Circus World, Baraboo, WI

Experience the Thrill that Never Grows Old

First Capitol, Belmont, WI

The Birthplace of a Great State

H.H. Bennett Studio, Wisconsin Dells, WI

The Man Who Made Wisconsin Dells Famous

Madeline Island Museum

A Place of Encounters

Wisconsin Historical Museum, Madison, WI

Explore Wisconsin's Distinctive Heritage

Old World Wisconsin, Eagle, WI

Relive the Spirit of America's Heartland

Pendarvis, Mineral Point, WI

Discover Cornish Culture during the Lead Mining Boom

Reed School, Neillsville, WI
When One Room Shaped Many Lives
Stonefield, Cassville, WI

The Roots of Rural Wisconsin

Villa Louis, Prairie du Chien, WI

Enter the World of Victorian America

Wade House, Greenbush, WI

Explore the Era of Stagecoach Travel

Historic Preservation-Public History

The Division of Historic Preservation-Public History helps people preserve places of enduring value and presents a fresh perspective on history through publications, programs and services.

EnlargePublic History

 Wisconsin students holding the Society's 4th grade history textbook Wisconsin: Our State, Our Story

Public History Programs

EnlargeHistoric Preservation

Maritime Preservation Program

Historic Preservation

The Society is the federally designated state historic preservation office. In partnership with communities, organizations and individuals, it works to identify, interpret, and preserve ancient and historic places for the benefit of present and future generations. In that role it:

  • Administers the Wisconsin portion of the National Register of Historic Places
  • Administers tax-credit programs for historic building rehabilitation
  • Conducts underwater archaeological research through the Maritime Preservation Program
  • Provides assistance and funding to local organizations and government
  • Reviews public projects for their effects on historic properties
  • Administers historical marker and burial sites programs
  • Maintains historic building, archeological and burial site inventories in the Wisconsin Historic Preservation Database


EnlargeView of the reading room from the SE corner

 Wisconsin Historical Society Library Reading Room

Within the Division of Library-Archives, the Library is the official state historical library as well as an internationally-recognized U.S. and Canadian history library, being designated as an official documents depository by the governments of Wisconsin, the United States and Canada. As a University of Wisconsin-Madison library, it provides reference services in person, by phone, by mail and online. It lends in person, statewide and nationwide through interlibrary loan. Holdings include:

  • 3.8 million volumes in the North American History Collection with extensive U.S. and Canadian history holdings
  • Second largest American newspaper collection in the U.S.
  • Extensive online collections focusing on Wisconsin history 
EnlargeResearchers in the Wisconsin Historical Society's Archives Research Room in Madison.

 Wisconsin Historical Society Archives Research Room


The Archives serves as the official state archive and holds all historical state records. It collects manuscripts and artifacts from private individuals and organizations. It also holds extensive visual and sound records, including more than 4 million historical photographs, posters, oral history recordings, and motion picture films. A network of 14 area research centers makes the collections readily available statewide. In addition to Wisconsin history, holdings include several collections of national scope:

  • Early American exploration and settlement, including the Draper Manuscript Collection
  • Social action movements, such as civil rights
  • Mass communications history
  • U.S. labor history and business records
EnlargeWisconsin Historical Museum on Madison's Capitol Square.

Wisconsin Historical Museum on Madison's Capitol Square

Wisconsin Historical Museum

The Wisconsin Historical Museum, located on Madison’s Capitol Square, contains four floors of permanent and rotating exhibits, an orientation theater, and a Museum store. Exhibits, collections and programs document Wisconsin’s history from prehistoric times to the present day, focusing on:

  • Prehistoric history and Wisconsin’s settlement
  • Agricultural history, industry and tourism
  • Political and environmental history
  • Extensive collections containing historical objects and archaeological artifacts 

Historic Sites

The Society's Division of Museums and Historic Sites hosts a network of 12 historic sites and museums that promote tourism and provide for the comprehensive study, appreciation and enjoyment of Midwestern frontier history for more than 300,000 visitors annually. The historic sites and museums, located throughout Wisconsin, include the Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison.

Learn More

Have Questions?

Interested in including the Wisconsin Historical Society in an upcoming feature story or calendar? Please contact Kara O’Keeffe, Marketing and Communications for the Wisconsin Historical Society, by calling 608-264-6500 or by email below: