2014: Our year in review

In 2014, Recollection Wisconsin focused on building connections both inside and outside the state. We reached out to K-12 educators with new materials for classroom use and surveyed libraries and museums in small communities across Wisconsin to collect feedback on their digitization needs and interests. We forged relationships in the region by helping to plan the first-ever Upper Midwest Digital Collections Conference and investigated ways to expand our future reach on the national level through participation in the Digital Public Library of America. We also achieved an exciting milestone – more than 200,000 photos, maps, books and other digital historical resources can now be discovered through the Recollection Wisconsin portal.

Outreach to K-12 teachers and students
In 2014, we released guidelines and lesson plans to help K-12 teachers incorporate the primary sources available through Recollection Wisconsin into their classrooms. These materials were developed with assistance from educators at Deerfield High School, UW-Madison, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Wisconsin Historical Society. They are based on the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Disciplinary Literacy in Social Studies as well as the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for Social Studies. We promoted these new resources at the Wisconsin Council for the Social Studies conference and through the Wisconsin Social Studies in Action social media community.

Survey: Digital Heritage in Wisconsin’s Small Communities
We surveyed libraries, historical societies and museums in small Wisconsin communities (defined as population under 6,000) to find out how we can help them build and grow digital collections of historical materials. Of the 140 organizations that responded to the survey, 68% were libraries and 32% were historical societies or museums. Using the data from this survey, we expect to pursue grant funding from several sources within and outside of the state in 2015 in order to develop new initiatives that support the digitization needs and interests of collecting organizations in small communities.

Upper Midwest Digital Collections Conference
We partnered with OCLC, WiLS and Minitex, the library consortium that sponsors the Minnesota Digital Library, to plan the Upper Midwest Digital Collections Conference, a two-day event in Minneapolis for librarians, archivists and museum staff working with digital content in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Midwest. More than 150 professionals from 17 states attended the conference.

Planning for participation in the DPLA
The Digital Public Library of America is a nationwide effort to bring together digital content from state-based programs like ours as well as digital collections of national significance from institutions such as the Smithsonian, Harvard and the National Archives. In 2014, the WiLS Board and the Recollection Wisconsin Advisory Committee authorized us to pursue expanding our program into a DPLA Service Hub, which would bring together digital content of all types (not only state and local history resources) from organizations around the state and expand on the digitization training opportunities and community outreach work we currently perform. WiLS and Recollection Wisconsin are now in conversation with stakeholders including Milwaukee Public Library, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, Wisconsin Historical Society and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to develop a collaborative plan and secure funding to participate in this major national initiative.

New content
In 2014, we worked with UW-Madison IT staff to harvest metadata representing approximately 85,000 new digital records, including two major new collections from the Milwaukee Public Library and UW-Milwaukee. The new content brings the total number of resources discoverable through the recollectionwisconsin.org portal to 216,041. New collections added to Recollection Wisconsin in 2014 included:

  • College of Menominee Nation S. Verna Fowler Academic Library/Menominee Public Library – Portraits of Menominee veterans.
  • Langlade County Historical Society – Images of the 107th Trench Mortar Battery Company of Antigo, Wisconsin during World War I, captured by photographer William H. Wessa.
  • Marquette University – 11,000 photographs illustrating the history of Marquette University in Milwaukee.
  • Milwaukee Public Library – More than 30,000 service record cards and photographs documenting Milwaukee County servicemen and women who served in World War I.
  • Mineral Point Library Archives – Images of early vernacular buildings in Mineral Point, one of the oldest settlements in the state.
  • Scandinavia Public Library – Scandinavia Memory Project – Twenty-two yearbooks and other publications from schools in the village of Scandinavia, Waupaca County. Produced in collaboration with the OWLS InfoSoup Memory Project, Outagamie Waupaca Library System.
  • South Wood County Historical Museum – Postcards from the central Wisconsin cities of Grand Rapids (later Wisconsin Rapids), Port Edwards and Nekoosa.
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – Milwaukee Polonia: The Roman Kwasniewski Photographs – more than 30,000 images of Milwaukee’s Polish South Side from the first half of the 20th century.
  • University of Wisconsin-Stout – Photographs documenting more than a century of vocational education at UW-Stout. Produced in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center.

Online exhibits
We worked with invited curators to launch four new online exhibitions, which reveal small slices of state and local history through photographs and other primary sources from our contributing partners’ collections.

Through conference presentations, workshops and webinars, we educated staff and volunteers of libraries, museums and historical societies about issues related to digital project planning, metadata and digital preservation.

  • American Association for State and Local History annual meeting, St. Paul – “The Ways We Word: Nomenclature and Other Standards for Documenting Collections,” with Paul Bourcier, Wisconsin Historical Society and Sarah Kapellusch, Wisconsin Veterans Museum
  • Milwaukee County Federated Library System – “Sharing Your Digital Collection,” with Andi Coffin, WiLS and Rose Fortier, Marquette University
  • WiLS webinar – “Best Practices for Managing Born Digital Content”
  • Winding Rivers Library System, La Crosse – “Exploring Cultural History Online”
  • Wisconsin Council for Local History regional meeting, Brodhead – “Bringing Local History Online,” with Patrick Weeden, Brodhead Historical Society

Image credit: Roman Kwasniewski, New Year’s party at Schenley’s Tavern. Milwaukee Polonia, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries

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