Wisconsin Historical Society

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Share Your Voice: Janesville

Rock County residents discuss plans for a new Wisconsin history museum

Share Your Voice: Janesville | Wisconsin Historical Society

 Rock County Historical Society Director Tim Maahs welcomes guests to the Janesville "Share Your Voice" session on Nov. 1, 2018.

Rock County Historical Society Director Tim Maahs welcomes guests to the Janesville "Share Your Voice" session on Nov. 1, 2018, by stating, “I am thrilled that the Wisconsin Historical Society has developed this platform for traveling throughout the state, gathering information from local communities on how a Wisconsin history museum would positively impact everyone.”

 

The Rock County Historical Society was a perfect setting for the fifth stop on the Wisconsin Historical Society’s “Share Your Voice” statewide engagement tour. Guests from Janesville, Beloit, and other area communities got to hear first-hand how a new Wisconsin history museum will connect to people all around the state and country, not just those who live in Madison.

The session was co-hosted by Heritage Rock County, a consortium of historical societies located in Rock County. During his opening remarks, Rock County Historical Society Executive Director Tim Maahs commented on the importance of this group’s work, stating “historical societies do not compete, they complement each other.”

EnlargeUsing Post-It notes, Janesville guests share ideas about the stories of their area that could be used in a new Wisconsin history museum.

Using Post-It notes, Janesville session
guests share ideas about the stories
of their area that could be used in a
new Wisconsin history museum.

The session followed the same flow as the workshops in other communities with a brief presentation and video introducing the Wisconsin Historical Society new museum project followed by three activities designed to acquire feedback on early new museum concepts. Attendees were asked to write down their favorite and most iconic Wisconsin memories, stories, and thoughts, and then rank some of the Society’s early exhibit concept design renderings that were produced through several months of work with Gallagher & Associates, the internationally renowned museum exhibit design firm engaged in this project.

Rock County pride came through loud and clear during these activities as guests discussed many important topics such as manufacturing and blue collar work ethic, immigration to the area (especially by the Irish), the Black Hawk War of 1832, education and the network of strong public schools in the area, music, geology, religion, the Underground Railroad, and of course agriculture and 4-H. One guest commented that “agriculture is the lifeblood of Wisconsin, and we should consider an olfactory experience where museum guests can actually smell the barn to create an automatic teachable moment for kids and other guests.”

As conversation continued, Wisconsin Historical Society Ruth and Hartley Barker Director Christian Øverland emphasized that the new museum will connect all 72 counties together through interactive programming, and the audience agreed that an immersive, inclusive experience will be very important, especially when it comes to engaging kids in the community. Øverland also stated that “this engagement series around the state is not just an exercise of simply talking to you. We’re using your feedback in the next stage of design, so what you’re telling us is critical.” 

Further conversation included the importance of wayfinding in the new museum, ensuring any technology used is adaptable as things change rapidly, accessibility for all types, using the new museum as a portal to connect to other sites, and interactivity as a key part of the guest experience.

The last exercise included attendees sharing their favorite museum or cultural attraction memory. This activity brought out a wide range of experiences at institutions all over the world, and confirmed our assumption that the sky is the limit when it comes to designing a new Wisconsin history museum.

A guest places her green preference sticker onto a new museum exhibit concept rendering.

A guest places her preference sticker onto a new museum exhibit concept rendering. “If you think about building a house, we’re at the stage now where you’re kind of drawing out the rooms on paper and saying what rooms you want,” Society Director Christian Øverland said of the concepts.

 Wisconsin Historical Society Ruth and Hartley Barker Director Christian Øverland speaks with a reporter from Madison's WISC-TV (Ch. 3) during the session.

Wisconsin Historical Society Ruth and Hartley Barker Director Christian Øverland speaks with a reporter from Madison's WISC-TV (Ch. 3) during the session.

 

Attendees were able to casually review the new museum concept renderings prior to the start of the session.

Attendees were able to casually review the new museum concept renderings prior to the start of the session.

 

Attendees write down their favorite and most iconic Wisconsin memories, which were then placed onto "What Makes Wisconsin, Wisconsin?" theme boards along the wall.

Attendees write down their favorite and most iconic Wisconsin memories, which were then placed onto "What Makes Wisconsin, Wisconsin?" theme boards along the wall.

Post-It notes with suggestions from Janesville guests fill the "What Makes Wisconsin, Wisconsin?" theme boards.

Post-It notes with suggestions from Janesville guests fill the "What Makes Wisconsin, Wisconsin?" theme boards.

This word cloud was created from Post-It note suggestions by attendees at the Janesville "Share Your Voice" session.

Janesville Word Cloud

This word cloud was created from Post-It note suggestions by attendees at the Janesville "Share Your Voice" session.

 

Share Your Voice statewide map