National Archives Month: Celebrate living history
For people interested in exploring their family's roots, or perfecting their knowledge of the wooden sailboats that once navigated--and disappeared in--the Great Lakes, or those who are simply history buffs, this is the best month of the year: October is National Archives Month. University of Wisconsin-Parkside Archivist Anna Stadick said her corner of the library's D2 level is a place where the past comes alive and history becomes personal.
"There are places where you can get genealogy information online," Stadick said. "But here you can see the entire naturalization petition of an ancestor and it has details like distinguishing physical characteristics. If the person had a scar, it will tell you; height, weight, eye color, all those kinds of things. And if you know those details, it makes things so much more personal."
The UW-Parkside Archives are part of the Area Research Center network, a one-of-a-kind system of archives that house Wisconsin Historical Society holdings and share them, transferring collections between facilities to benefit students and the public.
Stadick said the archives have been helping students involved in this semester's Election Experience class gain a unique historical perspective on past campaigns.
"I was looking to see what we had as far as early election documentation was concerned and we have vote tallies from the county clerks from the 1850s," Stadick said. "So there's an election...and everyone's on the ballot, much like now. The election clerk's copy of the ballot has pencil marks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 to count up who won. And they're in this book which is really just a notebook--paper and pencil--and it was the official record of the election!"
Archives' collection of artifacts from elections past is featured during the Election Experience class Tuesday, Oct. 16, at noon in the Student Center.
Stadick has been involved in some very practical uses of the archives: helping a family secure a passport so an elderly woman could visit her childhood home in Italy; verifying the citizenship of an area resident so he could receive Social Security benefits. To these families and many others, the UW-Parkside archives were a valuable resource.
For others, the archives are just a good place to gain some historical perspective. The 100 glass plate photo negatives given to UW-Parkside by Carthage College afford a glimpse of southern Wisconsin life from 1898 to 1902 like the photos that accompany this article. UW-Parkside History students studying the Civil War frequent the archives to read soldiers' letters to home and troops' marching orders. And former UW-Parkside ice hockey player Bill Westerlund recently spent hours gathering photos and articles about the team for the it's very successful 40th reunion.
Stadick was recently a guest on WGTD-FM's Morning Show, talking with host Greg Berg about National Archives Month. That interview is now available on the web.The UW-Parkside Archives are open Monday 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Use of the archives during National Archives Month (and every other month) is free.