Dana will be writing a series of dispatches from travels all over Wisconsin at cultural institutions, from libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and the memory organizations in-between. We have this rare opportunity thanks to our NEH grant-funded yearlong project, Listening to War: Uncovering Wisconsin’s Wartime Oral Histories. You can read more about it by visiting recollectionwisconsin.org/wioralhistory.
Like my trip to La Crosse, I didn’t let a snowstorm keep me from a two-day trip to the Fox Valley region. The first day was clear and cold with a drive to the Arvid E Miller Memorial Library Museum, a repository for the Mohican Nation Stockbridge-Munsee Community. The next day, I conducted an inventory at the Oshkosh Public Museum. By the time I was done in the area, snow was still falling but the roads were clear!
When I arrived at the Arvid E Miller Memorial Library Museum, I had the opportunity to speak with Jo Ann Schedler, a member of the Mohican Veterans and a retired nurse who stays active by volunteering and doing research. She wrote a chapter on Wisconsin American Indians in the Civil War, featured in an official book by the National Park Service. She often helps at the Museum Library under the leadership of the Library’s Manager Nathalee Kristiansen and Specialist Yvette Malone. While the scope of our project does not include the Civil War (mainly because we didn’t expect many A/V materials to come out of the 1860s!), the chance to learn more about the Stockbridge-Munsee Community and the information collected on veterans by the library was invaluable to the project.
After Schedler headed to another meeting, Kristiansen showed me the Library’s extensive collections in the vault, including Tribal Council minutes and tapes, research files on subjects and Community members, a reference area for Tribal members to use, and artifacts like beautifully ornate bead work, feathers, baskets, and more. The Library also holds the Tribes’ Bible from the 1700s, which is safely stored in a climate controlled case and shielded from light. I was there for an oral history interview series “Hear Our Stories” with Mohican Elders, a large videotaped collection done by the Stockbridge-Munsee Historical Committee and Tribal Council in 2008 and 2009. Working in the research room, I spent the afternoon watching and inventorying the veteran stories captured. Photos of the collection are restricted, so you’ll have to go visit yourself! There is a lot of history to be shared.
The next day, I worked with archivist Scott Cross at the Oshkosh Public Museum, currently working on a new exhibit People of the Waters. Cross also showed me around the museum archive’s stacks, but for most of the morning I spent time with a shelf of oral histories. The Museum has a large collection featuring notable local people, but a smaller specific collection about World War II veterans from the Oshkosh area.
In the future, Cross and I will be working together to see if there are more veteran or civilian homefront stories in the general collection. Cross generously understood the need for me to head home earlier than expected due to the snowstorm. Another reason to love the Wisconsin library/archives/museum community!
As always, we are grateful for these two institutions to let us in for good conversation and rich learning experiences. We are optimistic for all of the collections in our inventory. Be back with more soon!
We are currently reaching out to libraries, archives, museums and historical societies with relevant materials, but we may have missed you. Does your organization have oral histories? We’d love to hear from you! Please use this form to contact us about your collections.