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

Great Lakes Small Streams: How Water Shapes Wisconsin

A Traveling Display

Great Lakes Small Streams: How Water Shapes Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society
Great Lakes Small Streams Banner
Enlarge1882 Kenosha Map

Kenosha Map

Kenosha, seen here in an 1882 map, had an advantageous position on Lake Michigan and connections to plank roads and rail lines connecting Green Bay, Milwaukee, and Chicago. View the original source document: WHI 12378

EnlargeLog Drivers

Log Driving

Log driving crews, like the one pictured here near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin around 1900, floated cut logs downstream to sawmills for processing. In the second half of the 1800s, lumbering created most of Wisconsin's jobs and wealth. View the original source document: WHI 2208

EnlargeE. A. Birge

E. A. Birge and Chancey Juday

E. A. Birge and Chancey Juday use a plankton trap in Lake Mendota off Madison, Wisconsin in 1917. The limnology program Birge helped establish in Madison expanded into research on long-term ecology, climate change, and ecosystem ecology. View the original source document: WHI 3176

EnlargeChildren at the Fair

Children at the Fair

Children pose around a bubbler at the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, Wisconsin. View the original source document: WHI 33334

EnlargeMan Working at the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company

Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company

Here, men work on a metal water wheel at Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company in West Allis, Wisconsin. View the original source document: WHI 83920

We drink it, fish in it, clean with it, swim in it and travel across it. Water has always been critical for our survival.

The Great Lakes region is home to one of the largest freshwater resources on the planet. That water shaped the landscape, history and communities of our state. The Wisconsin Historical Society's traveling display "Great Lakes Small Streams: How Water Shapes Wisconsin" explores our state's long relationship with water and the impact we have had on our vast waterways.

The Wisconsin Historical Society currently provides this display to schools, nature centers, public libraries, historical societies and civic organizations in Wisconsin. To request "Great Lakes Small Streams" for your organization, please email or contact Kristen Leffelman at 414-988-8655. To browse the Wisconsin Historical Society's other traveling displays, click here.

This display is part of DIVE IN, an initiative exploring Wisconsin's water history through programs, events and exhibits from the Wisconsin Historical Society. 

What's in the Display?

The sixteen panels of "Great Lakes Small Streams" tell the story of Wisconsin's relationship with water in simple language, with reproductions of 70 historic and contemporary photographs and documents. The display is most suitable for secondary schools and the general public.

View the complete contents of each panel here (PDF, 30 MB).

A student activity guide that includes cross-disciplinary classroom activities on the history of water resources in Wisconsin and a digital collection are also available (see below).

The Wisconsin Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the Herzfeld Foundation, Wisconsin Humanities Council, and Ralph Evinrude Foundation for their generous support of "Great Lakes Small Streams."

General Description

8 freestanding, double-sided poly fabric banners, 39" x 87", on retractable banner stands

Rental Fee

$75, plus shipping or pick-up

Proceeds from traveling exhibit rentals support the Society's ongoing outreach programs and activities.


Up to 4 weeks. Venues may schedule the display for more than 4 weeks for an additional fee.

Space Required

360 sq. ft.

Dates and Locations

See our events calendar for full details.

Learn More