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BIG History Is Happening | Wisconsin Historical Society

BIG History Is Happening

BIG History Is Happening

BIG History Is Happening

A BIG moment in history is happening right now. COVID-19 is having a major impact on all of our lives. As we practice social distancing, and spend more time at home, it is easy to feel isolated from the things you love. We know how much you love history, and until we can welcome you back to the Society, the Library & Archives, and our sites and museums, we are going to bring more history straight to you! Here are some free resources to get you started on your adventure through the past.

Collecting History as it Happens

Graffiti'd wood panels from the Wisconsin Historical Museum, featuring BLM in artful bubble letters and the phrase 'always lies'.

Despite the gains made by the American Civil Rights movement, this past year we've witnessed our country’s systemic problems of racism and injustice. Protests across the country, including here in Wisconsin, were the catalyst for important conversations examining racism and social justice in America.

In the wake of the protests, the Society acquired a collection of wood panels from boarded up buildings. These panels also served as a canvas for those advocating for change to express their emotions through art. The panels will be preserved and shared through future exhibits as a reminder of the impact that the death of George Floyd had on Wisconsin’s citizens.

Explore the Video Gallery

The Society has also gathered resources to help guide the dialogue as we continue to have conversations with our past to build a better future. Read a Wisconsin Historical Society Statement and view Black History Resources.

Join the COVID-19 Journal Project

You can help the Society collect history as it happens by keeping a journal during the COVID-19 crisis.

Learn How

COVID-19 Poster Project

The Wisconsin Historical Society is announcing the launch of the next phase of its COVID-19 Poster Project! We will commission ten Wisconsin artists and an additional ten high school students who's artwork will become part of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s poster collection to be preserved for future generations. Learn More about the project.

The beginning set of the Wisconsin Historical Society Poster Project

Becca Bryant's Together Wisconsin Poster, depicting a black woman standing proudly wearing a mask in the cutout of Wisconsin. Renee Graef's Clean Hands Poster, depicting four ethnically diverse children all washing their hands. Roberto Torres Mata's We Get Through This Together Poster, depicting a figure reminiscent of the Virgin of Guadalupe wearing a mask. We Get Through This Together by Emily Maryniak Poster, featuring three people engaging in various activities: gardening, working online, protesting for black lives. A large hand with a rainbow gathers groceries. To Each Their Strengths by Jolyn Sandford Poster, featuring an Asian woman handing food to a dark hair Assisting the Elderly Poster by Greg Biskakone Johnson, A poster reminiscent of WWII army styling it evokes a relateable feel revealing a can of food, that talks about taking care of our neighbors and our community in times of hardship. Conserving Resources Poster by Colin Matthes, Stark decisive black and white lines with pops of color to highlight important resources, like tomatoes, create the dramatic affect of this poster. Cat Parra's We Stand United Poster, depicting a group of people wearing masks facing a threat. It is a diverse group adults, children, essential workers, etc Yeonhee Cheong's Social Kindness Poster, depicting two people wearing masks facing each other with the words Social Kindness Protects Others & Yourself Jerry Jordan's Learn At Home Poster featuring a young black girl at a table full of books and computer looking engaged in her studies Ashley Town's Keep Your Distance Poster, depicting bright blue and pink blocks that are inentionally spaced and the words Keep Your Distance Jim McKiernan Wisconsin Heroes Poster, depicting a medical worker holding a vial and a hazardous materials bag, behind whom are other essential workers. All of them are wearing masks.

Public information posters have long been a part of history. The Wisconsin Historical Society sponsored 12 artists and their representation and expression of the COVID-19 pandemic through a new, relevant public information poster. The posters created by Wisconsin artists during the COVID-19 pandemic will become part of the collections at the Society where they can be used by future generations.

Learn More
Celebrating 175 Years of Wisconsin History | 1846 - 2021

Celebrating Wisconsin Visionaries, Changemakers, and Storytellers

History is a story with many voices, always growing and evolving—a story we tell together.

Throughout time and place, humans have looked to the past to inspire the future. We study the stories of those who came before us to define who we are today, and who we want to become tomorrow. We have a conversation with our past to build a better future.

Learn More

Then & Now

The cover of a seed catalog from 1898.There are a variety of different vegetable featured and a young girl picking fruit is featured wearing an white dress with a woman in the background leaning down to garden.

For decades, seed catalogs were the most popular way for home gardeners to order their products. This is the back cover of the John A. Salzer Seed Company catalog from 1898, which is part of the Wisconsin Historical Society collection.

WHI Image 129544

A woman gardening face obscured by a ball cap as the picture is taken from above.

While many may no longer order seeds through catalogs (though they do still exist), today’s home gardeners still plant them just like their parents and grandparents. Here, Nettie Witter of McFarland plants peas in her backyard garden.

Credit: Dean Witter

Previous Week's Then & Nows

During the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Wisconsin Historical Society created a series of posts exploring how we've handled pandemics in the past and how we're handling them now. Explore them below

Explore BIG Moments in Wisconsin's History

Research & Discover History

Explore the History of Epidemics and Diseases in Wisconsin

Epidemics in History

A woman at International Harvester's Tractor Works looks through a filing cabinet or a card catalog

Turning Points in History

A Wisconsin family portrait outside, african american

Research Your Family History

An old picture of a Wisconsin neighboorhood from a hill

Discover Your Community History

A vintage cashier till

Explore Our Collections

Map of Wisconsin

Maps & Atlases

Al Ringling Historic Building

National Register of Historic Places

Two scuba divers exploring a wreck

Wisconsin Shipwrecks

Man reading the Union Farmer, an old newspaper

Digitized Newspaper Collection

Two men working on a video camera

Online Film Collection

Language teachers listen to foreign languages on tape decks at an institute for public school language teachers at Mount Mary College.

Wisconsin Sound Archive

Education & Activity Resources

Map of the First Nations in Wisconsin

Wisconsin First Nations

Mammoth Skeleton

Mammoth Mystery

A couple book covers for young readers books

Young Readers

Tommy Knocker Coloring Page

Coloring Pages

Book Nook

The COVID-19 Pandemic has temporarily affected the Society's ability to fulfill hard copy book orders. However, you can still find Wisconsin Historical Society Press books at your favorite book retailer, including independent booksellers at IndieBound. E-books are also available through most e-book vendors, including KOBO, the online e-book portal for many independent booksellers. And make sure to follow us on Facebook for virtual storytime!

Bring History Home

Our online store is open and ready to take your order! Here are a few suggestions to beat the boredom.

More At Home Toys and Activities

Games & Puzzles | Journals & Coloring Books

Support the Preservation of Wisconsin's History

Make a big impact


History is a story with many voices, always growing and evolving — a story we tell together.

Let us know if there are ways we could improve!