As a proud new team member of Recollection Wisconsin, I’ll be writing a series of dispatches from my travels all over Wisconsin to find oral history collections at libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and other memory organizations. I 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.
My trip to the Green Bay area covered the most institutions I’ve visited so far in a single trip: over two days, I worked at the UW Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center, in downtown Green Bay at the Neville Public Museum of Brown County, and then at the Lester Public Library in Two Rivers, about 45 minutes southeast of Green Bay. This was my first time in the area, finally getting to see the land of milk and
honey cheese where the Packers come from!
I worked with University Archivist Deb Anderson in the David A. Cofrin Library at UWGB. She brought out a diamond of a collection, which was recorded as an independent study project for a Women’s History professor on campus. Included were cassette tape interviews with eight women, plus photos of them from their time in service during World War II. Anderson also showed me a collection of digital video interviews collected by two student veterans as part of a recent interdisciplinary course called Documenting Memory.
At the Neville Public Museum, after I walked past the really cool dinosaur statues in front of the museum, Collections Manager Louise Pfotenhauer showed me to the research room. There, I inventoried a collection of DVDs with interviews of Vietnam War veterans. These interviews grew out of the planning process for the LZ Lambeau “welcome home” celebration at Lambeau Field, attended by thousands of Vietnam veterans and their families in 2010.
The next day, I drove to Two Rivers, a small community on Lake Michigan with a large, new library building powered by solar panels. The Lester Public Library hosts a popular community event known as Story Circle, in which community members come in to be interviewed and filmed. The resulting DVDs of these oral history interviews are available for check out. One standout interview for the Listening to War project comes from Gunther Skaletz, a Polish man who was conscripted into the German army, taken prisoner by the KGB, and ultimately emigrated to America.
I still have many more places to visit in the northeast, and I’m glad I get the chance to come back soon!
We are currently reaching out to Wisconsin libraries, archives, museums and historical societies with relevant materials for this inventory project, but we may have missed you. Does your organization have oral histories? We’d love to hear from you! Please use this form to tell us more about your collections.