BIG History Is Happening | Wisconsin Historical Society

BIG History Is Happening

BIG History Is Happening

BIG History Is Happening

A BIG moment in history is happening right now. COVID-19 is having a major impact on all of our lives. As we practice social distancing, and spend more time at home, it is easy to feel isolated from the things you love. We know how much you love history, and until we can welcome you back to the Society, the Library & Archives, and our sites and museums, we are going to bring more history straight to you! Here are some free resources to get you started on your adventure through the past.

Collecting History as it Happens

Graffiti'd wood panels from the Wisconsin Historical Museum, featuring BLM in artful bubble letters and the phrase 'always lies'.

Despite the gains made by the American Civil Rights movement, these past years we've witnessed our country’s systemic problems of racism and injustice. Protests across the country, including here in Wisconsin, were the catalyst for important conversations examining racism and social justice in America.

In the wake of the protests, the Society acquired a collection of wood panels from boarded up buildings. These panels also served as a canvas for those advocating for change to express their emotions through art. The panels will be preserved and shared through future exhibits as a reminder of the impact that the death of George Floyd had on Wisconsin’s citizens.

Explore the Video Gallery

The Society has also gathered resources to help guide the dialogue as we continue to have conversations with our past to build a better future. Read a Wisconsin Historical Society Statement and view Black History Resources.

Join the COVID-19 Journal Project

You can help the Society collect history as it happens by keeping a journal during the COVID-19 crisis.

Learn How

COVID-19 Poster Project

Hope is what has helped us get through the toughest days of this pandemic. The story of the COVID-19 Pandemic did not end in July 2020 with the release of our last poster. New waves and variants continue to prolong its impact. Despite these hardships, we have found moments of hope that bring us together, even when we are apart. These messages, and new stories over the past year, are the focus of the next phase of posters.

The second phase of the Wisconsin Historical Society Poster Project

An idyllic geometric interpretation of Wisconsin farmland, rolls softly into the distance. Alternating 'rows' of pale and light green, with scattered evergrren trees covers the landscape till it reaches the sky. In the sky resting slightly on the horizon are two hands clasped around a N95 typicall blue mask, one white, one black. The mask drapes slightly over the rolling hills. Above it all it reads Continuing the Effort. A pale green background over a darker green lawn holds a peach tree. Arond the peach tree that is a darker green with peachy orange fruit, are three people. A woman holds out the fruit to a young child and older man standing opposite her around the tree. Below them it reads Branch Out. Done similarly to a victorian style advertisement, a woman stands surrounded in a black oval background, clutching her hand to her chest while wearing a black strapless gown, her dark hair blending into the background and a bandaid on her bicep. Around her in gothic lettering, warped to fit the space it reads, 'Getting Vaccinated is simple Easy & Done in just a pinch! Get Yours Today!' This poster is made on a dark black background with a bright orange oval center, surrounded by the words 'It Takes Time But We Will Heal' in yellow. In the orange oval in the center is a couple poppies and a green snake wrapped around a stake in reference to the symbol of medicine, the Rod of Asclepius Depicted on a chalkboard like background, line figures of parents, children, and scientists though static are filled with movement. The Middle ground infront of the figures is populated by a variety of chemical symbols. In the fore ground are 3 bottles, one red, one mustard colored, one blue. They depict the progression of vaccination from the Polio Vaccine (invented by Dr. Jonas Salk, 1955), to Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccine (Maurice Hilleman, 1977), and finally Covid-19 Vaccine (2021). 3 figures stand together, a pregnant mother, an American Veteran, a medical worker in full protective gear, againts a background of red poppies and a peachy sunset sky. The pregnant mother holds her belly and looks lovingly down; she wears a vaccinated sticker, bandaid, and a poppy behind her ear. The medical worker looks tiredly up at the sky. The American veteran stands proud and confrontationaly at the viewer, his mouth set in a grimace, his patriotism worn proudly on his shirt, his work gloves and work pants showing good use. Above them all it reads 'Protect Your Family. Protect America. Vaccinate Today! A warm and bright background of repeating arcs or rainbows in purple, magenta, orange, and goldenrod, is covered by two hands clasped together. One is purple, the other orange are vertically across the poster. Around them words are placed: 'A helping hand can go a long way! Assit your elderly neighbors! Give a family member and a friend a hand!' Covid-19 poster by Jay Ramirez using a vintage video game theme to create the imagery of a virus being defeated by a vaccine and other safety measures. Featured are several pixelated face masks, coronus viruses, and syringes on a black background. In this monochrome, black & white, watercolor, two figures have their arms wrapped around each other looking into the distance where the words 'Show your love' can be seen. The only color is their matching pink bandaid on both their arms. In this historically created, letter press print, ther is teal text on a oatmeal colored paper and background. a repeating pattern of of stars is faintly percievable in the background. The teal text reads, 'Listen to history, trust in science, save lives. Two figures are featured in this portrait, both are dressed the same, yellow baseball cap and striped polos. One is half off the poster edge, the other sits in a chair playing with rubber ball attached to a ping pong paddle. 'The Vax' is listed large at the top of the poster, and below 'The life you save may be your own' A black girl with cute dreaded pig tails sits cross legged, all in purple. She wears a tank top and pants with sneakers, the laces slightly undone a smile on her face. She asks, 'I'm vaccinated are you?' This poster is on a pale pink background with white star bursts. Bright pink heart balloons surround a masked elder with long grey hair. She wears a green button up sweater over dark bottoms and large round glasses. Around her it reads 'Support the ones you love, elders, friends, and neighbors. a highway extends into a valley between to green hills where the sun is setting. A sign to the right of the road states 'Recovery in 10 miles'

Public information posters have long been a part of history. From encouraging volunteerism and morale on the home front during World War I to encouraging patriotism during World War II, these posters were usually bright and bold and encouraged the public to take action. In the same tradition, the Society commissioned artists to re-imagine historic public information posters for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn More
Celebrating 175 Years of Wisconsin History | 1846 - 2021

Celebrating Wisconsin Visionaries, Changemakers, and Storytellers

History is a story with many voices, always growing and evolving—a story we tell together.

Throughout time and place, humans have looked to the past to inspire the future. We study the stories of those who came before us to define who we are today, and who we want to become tomorrow. We have a conversation with our past to build a better future.

Learn More

Then & Now

The cover of a seed catalog from 1898.There are a variety of different vegetable featured and a young girl picking fruit is featured wearing an white dress with a woman in the background leaning down to garden.

For decades, seed catalogs were the most popular way for home gardeners to order their products. This is the back cover of the John A. Salzer Seed Company catalog from 1898, which is part of the Wisconsin Historical Society collection.

WHI Image 129544

A woman gardening face obscured by a ball cap as the picture is taken from above.

While many may no longer order seeds through catalogs (though they do still exist), today’s home gardeners still plant them just like their parents and grandparents. Here, Nettie Witter of McFarland plants peas in her backyard garden.

Credit: Dean Witter

Previous Week's Then & Nows

During the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Wisconsin Historical Society created a series of posts exploring how we've handled pandemics in the past and how we're handling them now. Explore them below

Explore BIG Moments in Wisconsin's History

Research & Discover History

Explore the History of Epidemics and Diseases in Wisconsin

Epidemics in History

A woman at International Harvester's Tractor Works looks through a filing cabinet or a card catalog

Turning Points in History

A Wisconsin family portrait outside, african american

Research Your Family History

An old picture of a Wisconsin neighboorhood from a hill

Discover Your Community History

A vintage cashier till

Explore Our Collections

Map of Wisconsin

Maps & Atlases

Al Ringling Historic Building

National Register of Historic Places

Two scuba divers exploring a wreck

Wisconsin Shipwrecks

Man reading the Union Farmer, an old newspaper

Digitized Newspaper Collection

Two men working on a video camera

Online Film Collection

Language teachers listen to foreign languages on tape decks at an institute for public school language teachers at Mount Mary College.

Wisconsin Sound Archive

Education & Activity Resources

Map of the First Nations in Wisconsin

Wisconsin First Nations

Mammoth Skeleton

Mammoth Mystery

A couple book covers for young readers books

Young Readers

Tommy Knocker Coloring Page

Coloring Pages

Book Nook

The COVID-19 Pandemic has temporarily affected the Society's ability to fulfill hard copy book orders. However, you can still find Wisconsin Historical Society Press books at your favorite book retailer, including independent booksellers at IndieBound. E-books are also available through most e-book vendors, including KOBO, the online e-book portal for many independent booksellers. And make sure to follow us on Facebook for virtual storytime!

Bring History Home

Our online store is open and ready to take your order! Here are a few suggestions to beat the boredom.

More At Home Toys and Activities

Games & Puzzles | Journals & Coloring Books

Support the Preservation of Wisconsin's History

Make a big impact


History is a story with many voices, always growing and evolving — a story we tell together.

Let us know if there are ways we could improve!