Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
Op Ed

State History Museum Should Be Inclusive

Project to build new museum presents opportunity to achieve this.

The new museum will be located in downtown Madison, WI. File photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

The new museum will be located in downtown Madison, WI. File photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

As a member of the Wisconsin Historical Society Board of Curators, I write to engage the NNS community in an important development in the state’s history. I want to express my excitement for the Society’s plan to build a new state history museum in Madison. More importantly, on behalf of the Society and Board of Curators, I write to encourage even more public engagement in the emerging museum.

First, let’s make sure to continually review development at the new museum website. Our community’s collective thoughts and ideas will be central to the Society’s goal of creating “. . . a 21st century museum that will share history like nothing that exists today.” You can also stay connected with updates via email.

And, please know, there is a fundraising campaign in full swing. But this letter is not an ask. It’s an earnest invitation for more community dialogue about a new museum that will pursue the following goals:

  • Transform how history is shared across Wisconsin for the next century and beyond.”
  • ”Inspire future leaders”
  • ”Create a forum for civic dialogue where we understand how our past influences our present and informs our future.”
  • Bring families together to share an unforgettable experience among multiple generations
  • ” . . . Serve as a bridge to a better understanding of our shared heritage”
  • “Allow all Wisconsinites to see themselves in the stories being told…”

Parent and kids, teachers and students . . .  let’s all weigh in!

Some may be surprised to know the Society is indeed one of the most respected history organizations in the world. In fact, we have in our state one of the nation’s most significant social justice collections, highlighted by a remarkable Freedom Summer archive. It’s time we have a history museum of equal stature.

Wisconsin needs history education now more than ever and the new museum must serve the educational needs and bolster the cultural identities of current and future generations.

The new museum will pursue its goals with a state-of-the-art physical space and offer digital engagement with new and emerging technologies. This means that, while the physical museum may be in Madison, students across the state will be able to engage with the museum on a regular basis without having to travel.

Now is the time for a new state history museum!

Join me in thinking like a historian, and let’s all weigh in.

Robert Smith is the Harry G. John professor of history at Marquette University and director of the university’s Center for Urban Research, Teaching and Outreach. 

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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