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Searching the Wisconsin Historical Society's Archives Catalogs | Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

How to Search Our Archives Collections

Searching the Wisconsin Historical Society's Archives Catalogs | Wisconsin Historical Society

With millions of items in the Society's collections, it can sometimes be challenging for Library-Archives patrons to find exactly what they want. This guide is intended to help you explore the Society’s rich collections.

If you have questions along the way, please contact us by phone at 608-264-6460 or by email.

EnlargeScreenshot image of Archives Catalog (ArCat)

The Archives Catalog (ArCat)


EnlargeScreenshot image of an Archives Catalog (ArCat) record.

Image of an ArCat Record 

Search Online (ArCat and Finding Aids)

"ArCat" The Archives Online Catalog

ArCat is an online catalog that provides descriptions and information about holdings in the Archives. ArCat contains over 27,000 catalog entries for the Archives holdings.

It includes descriptions for:

  • The Society's manuscript collections
  • State government records
  • Local government records
  • A portion of our visual materials holdings

When you find collections related to your subject of interest, note the catalog information such as format, call number and shelf locations of the collection/s. This information will help us to provide you with information about and access to the collections.


ArCat does not contain digital collections. These can be searched at Explore Our Collections and UW-Digital Collections.

If you are unable to find what you are looking for, please submit a reference request and our staff will help determine if there are materials relevant to your search.

Search ArCat

Search Our Finding Aids

A finding aid can describe a single document or more typically a collection of documents. Other names for findings aids include: Register, Collection Guide, Inventory, Index, Calendar or Catalog. The Society most commonly refers to their finding aids as Registers. A finding aid usually includes a short description of the collection, any restrictions, and a list of the materials by box. Sometimes biographical and/or historical information is included.

Our finding aids describe unpublished primary resources held at 19 repositories throughout Wisconsin. Holdings can include a variety of materials such as correspondence, diaries, maps, government records, film, photographs and audio recordings. For further information on use, contact the institution with custody of the described materials

Search the Finding Aids

Visit the Archives in Person

The Library and Archives are free and open to the public. 

We encourage all patrons to come to Madison to conduct research in the Archives, or, if more convenient, to visit one of our Area Research Centers (ARCs). The reference staff will help you locate materials relevant to your search. You can also request that any materials normally housed at our Headquarters building in Madison be transferred to an Area Research center nearest you.

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Have Questions?

Contact our Archives staff at 608-264-6460 or by email below: