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Wisconsin State Archives

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Wisconsin State Archives: A Treasure Trove of the State's History

The Wisconsin State Archives is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history and heritage of the state. As a repository for historical documents and artifacts, the archives play a vital role in preserving and promoting the rich history of Wisconsin. In this article, we will take a closer look at the Wisconsin State Archives and their various collections, services, and resources.

The Origins of the Wisconsin State Archives

The Wisconsin State Archives was established in 1848, the same year that Wisconsin became the 30th state of the United States. The initial purpose of the archives was to collect and preserve the official records and documents of the state government, and this has remained a core function of the archives to this day. Over time, the Wisconsin State Archives has expanded its scope to include a wide variety of materials related to the state's history, culture, and society.

The Collections at the Wisconsin State Archives

The Wisconsin State Archives houses an extensive and diverse array of collections that span multiple formats, time periods, and subject areas. Some of the key collections include:

State Government Records

As the official repository for state government records, the Wisconsin State Archives holds an extensive collection of documents, reports, and publications produced by state agencies, boards, and commissions. This collection includes materials such as legislative records, executive orders, agency reports, and more. These records provide valuable insights into the workings of the state government and its role in shaping the history of Wisconsin.

Local Government Records

In addition to state government records, the Wisconsin State Archives also maintains a vast collection of local government records. These materials document the activities and decisions of county, city, and town governments across the state. Local government records include items such as county board minutes, city ordinances, town meeting minutes, and tax rolls.

Manuscript Collections

The manuscript collections at the Wisconsin State Archives encompass personal papers, diaries, letters, and other materials created by individuals and families throughout the state's history. These collections offer a unique and intimate glimpse into the lives of the people who called Wisconsin home.

Photographs and Visual Materials

The Wisconsin State Archives houses a vast collection of photographs and visual materials that document the state's history and development. This collection includes images of important events, people, and places, as well as a wide array of maps, architectural drawings, and other visual materials.

Audiovisual Materials

In addition to its extensive collection of print and visual materials, the Wisconsin State Archives also maintains a significant collection of audio and video recordings. This collection includes oral history interviews, radio broadcasts, and film footage related to the state's history.

Research Services at the Wisconsin State Archives

The Wisconsin State Archives offers a variety of research services to assist patrons in accessing and utilizing its collections. These services include:

Onsite Research

Researchers are welcome to visit the Wisconsin State Archives in person to consult its collections. The archives' research room is open to the public, and staff are available to assist researchers in locating and using materials.

Online Resources

The Wisconsin State Archives maintains an extensive array of digital resources that can be accessed remotely. These resources include digital collections of photographs, documents, maps, and other materials, as well as a catalog that allows users to search the archives' holdings.

Research Assistance

The staff of the Wisconsin State Archives is available to provide research assistance to patrons, both onsite and remotely. This assistance can include help with locating materials, answering reference questions, and providing guidance on research strategies.

Reproduction Services


The Wisconsin State Archives offers reproduction services for many of its materials, including photocopies, digital scans, and photographic reproductions. These services are available to researchers both onsite and remotely, allowing patrons to obtain copies of materials for personal use or further research.

Educational Programs and Outreach at the Wisconsin State Archives

In addition to its research services, the Wisconsin State Archives is also committed to promoting the state's history and heritage through educational programs and outreach initiatives. These efforts include:

Workshops and Seminars

The Wisconsin State Archives regularly hosts workshops, seminars, and other educational events on topics related to the state's history and the archives' collections. These events provide valuable learning opportunities for researchers, educators, students, and the general public.

School Programs

The Wisconsin State Archives offers a variety of programs and resources tailored specifically for K-12 students and educators. These programs include guided tours, hands-on activities, and curriculum materials designed to engage students with the state's history and foster a deeper understanding of Wisconsin's past.


The Wisconsin State Archives frequently curates exhibits that showcase its collections and highlight important aspects of the state's history. These exhibits are displayed both onsite at the archives and online, making them accessible to a wide audience.

Collaborations with Other Institutions

The Wisconsin State Archives works closely with other cultural institutions, such as museums, libraries, and historical societies, to promote the state's history and heritage. This collaboration takes the form of joint programs, shared resources, and partnerships on special projects.

Preserving Wisconsin's History for Future Generations

The Wisconsin State Archives plays a crucial role in preserving the state's historical records and making them accessible to researchers, educators, and the public. By maintaining its extensive collections and offering a wide range of services and resources, the archives ensure that the rich history of Wisconsin will be preserved and appreciated for generations to come.

In conclusion, the Wisconsin State Archives is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the state's history, culture, and society. Through its diverse collections, research services, educational programs, and outreach initiatives, the archives provide a window into Wisconsin's past and a foundation for understanding its present and future.

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