There are many sources that deal with the history of the University of Wisconsin. Indeed the entire University Archives collection--26,000 cubic feet of paper material, over 2,500,000 images, nearly 1000 oral histories, films, videos, memorabilia, etc.--documents the history of the university.
There are, however, several online collections which contain some major information about the history of this great university. The listing on the left provides links to key online resources, exhibits and collections.
Our paper collections are divided into over 40 record groups which follow the basic structure of the University. For example:
Record Group 1 - Board of Regents
Record Group 7 - College of Letters and Science
--Series 7/6 - Department of Chemistry
--Series 7/6/10 - Henry A. Schuette papers
Record Group 19 - Student Life
--Series 19/5 - Student Affairs Committees and Councils
More recent accessions are given only an accession number (e.g. 2009/014), but will be listed with other materials from the same unit. Here is a complete list of record groups
The University Archives will actively collect born-digital and electronic records that document University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty and staff, administrators, organizations, departments and student life. The University Archives does not discriminate against format or time period.
The UW Digital Collections Center hosts a wealth of photographs, images, and texts related to campus history in the UW-Madison Collection including:
- The Badger Yearbook, 1885 and 1888-2009
- Class Albums
- The University of Wisconsin: A History (4 volumes)
- Wisconsin Alumni Magazine, 1899-1990
- University of Wisconsin Alumni Directory, 1849-1919
- Wisconsin Engineer, 1896-2004
- University of Wisconsin Archives Images
- William J. Meuer Photoart Albums
- Student and organization scrapbooks and photos albums
- Campus humor magazines
- Daily Cardinal and other campus newspapers
and much more!
Bascom Hill, c. 1910
The death of University of Wisconsin boxing great, Charlie Mohr, is a now little-known chapter in the history of UW. The story rocked our campus community as events that took place during the April 1960 national championship event subsequently decided the fate of collegiate boxing throughout the country; a sport which was one of the most popular of all college sports in its day—particularly here, on the UW (Madison) campus.
This short film clip details research and discoveries made by UW cancer researchers and doctors at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research in the mid-1960s. Specific cancer research methods, equipment and facilities are demonstrated by many notable UW cancer researchers including Harold Rusch, Van Potter and James and Elizabeth Miller.
The construction of the first McArdle building resulted from a gift by Michael W. McArdle. Dr. Harold P. Rusch (who narrates and appears in this short film clip) was appointed first Director of the McArdle Laboratory in 1940 and established the cancer research program at the University of Wisconsin. In 1964, the National Cancer Institute funded facilities expansion at the laboratory.
Dedication of McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research.
(L to R) Congressman Melvin Laird; Dr. Harold Rusch; Dr. K. Endicott, NCI Director; and Robert Clodius, UW Vice President of Academic Affairs.
April 1963. (Image #S09030)
Edwin Broun Fred, known as E. B., served as the president of the University of Wisconsin from 1945-1958. Fred reached the mandatory retirement age in 1957, but the regents asked him to stay until June 30, 1958. After his retirement, he continued to conduct research and served as an advisor to the University.
Fred achieved many accomplishments during his time as president. Student enrollment on the campus grew from around 8,000 to 17,000. The university added over 24 new buildings and research spending increased greatly. Fred oversaw the growth of the Extension program and the opening of the UW-Milwaukee campus in 1956.
This short video reveals a lesser known aspect of Dr. Fred’s life and work; his support and encouragement of women faculty and students on campus.
Would you like to learn more? The University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives houses documents and images for all of UW's presidents and chancellors. For more information about these resources, contact the University Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org.
President Fred seated at his desk in 1948
Venetian Night was an early University of Wisconsin-Madison campus traditions held from 1911-1930. Taking place in late May, the event commonly included both parades and décor contests of illuminated and decorated water floats with music performances and a fireworks display at the close.
The subsequent video production was created in the summer of 2011 by UW-Madison History student, Emily Eubanks, and exhibits a brief history of the UW Madison campus Venetian Night celebration.
Would you like to learn more? The University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives houses documents and images that record the Venetian Night tradition as well as many other University of Wisconsin-Madison events. For more information about all of UW-Madison’s past and present traditions and celebrations, contact the University Archives at email@example.com.
Miss Frances Dummer (1921) at Venetian Night
May 28, 1919
The Wisconsin Idea, introduced by UW President Charles Van Hise in 1904, asserts that the UW campus and its educational influence are not bound to the classroom, but can and should reach the whole world. Nobel Prize winners connected to Wisconsin, 18 in total, exemplify this philosophy through their desire not only to invent and explore, but to use their creativity and intelligence to create a better world for all.
This video project presents four Nobel winners: Joshua Lederberg (1958, Medicine), Har Gobind Khorana (1968, Medicine), Howard Temin (1975, Medicine), and John Van Vleck (1977, Physics). These four were chosen as their time at UW-Madison included work that directly led to their Nobel Prize and serves as an excellent example of how our campus fosters innovation, experimentation and the Wisconsin Idea.
Nobel Prize Winner Howard Temin, 1987
Originating in 1874, men's crew is the oldest sport at the University of Wisconsin. Crew has been very successful, bringing 19 national championships to UW in various events, even through there are no athletic scholarships for the sport. This exhibit tells the story of men's crew at UW through text, images and audio. This exhibit was made possible by Bradley F. Taylor of the Friends of the UW Men's Crew, through donations to the UW-Madison Archives.
Taylor is also the author of "Wisconsin Where They Row: A History of Varsity Rowing at the University of Wisconsin." University of Wisconsin Press, 2005.
Boat House and crew team, c. 1900
"On, Wisconsin!" is one of the most readily recognized fight songs in the country. The song was first heard over a period of days before the Wisconsin-Minnesota football game on November 13, 1909 (Minnesota 34, Wisconsin 6). Since then it has been adopted by other universities and high schools and a version became the Wisconsin state song in 1959. This site traces the history and traditions of one of Wisconsin's most enduring traditions.
Original "On Wisconsin" sheet music
The student body of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a rich and diverse history of activism and protest. This site does not claim to be all-inclusive, but instead attempts to provide a representative selection and timeline of student protest on campus throughout the twentieth century.
Anti Dow Protest at Commerce Building
October 18, 1967
This collection consists of the digitized minutes of the meetings of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents from 1921-1991. The 70-year scope of this collection captures the expansion of the University of Wisconsin from one four-year campus in Madison with 7,344 students to a statewide system of 26 campuses annually serving more than 173,000 students and over one million Wisconsin residents through statewide Extension. Hosted by the UW Digital Collections Center. Board of Regents agendas and minutes after 1991 are available on the Board of Regents web site.
Board of Regents, 1924
The Aldo Leopold Archives Collection, including texts, correspondence, journals, photographs and other documents, digitized and hosted by the UW Digital Collections Center.
Aldo Leopold at his desk, 1942
Help identify the moments and personalities that have shaped the history of UW-Madison.
This collection currently has images from the School of Library and Information Studies, the School of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Engineering, the Dance Program, the Class of 1957, and UW Hockey and Basketball.
Can you help us identify these photos?
School of Veterinary Medicine horses, 1984
A project of the UW-Madison Oral History Program, Campus Voices is meant to capture, present, and preserve some of the strongest historical stories and memories of UW-Madison, through the people who lived them. Since January 2010 the Campus Voices project has produced the stories of the 1970 TAA Strike, the 1970 Bombing of Sterling Hall, Women working in Science in Engineering and Badger Village.
For more information about oral history interviews, visit the UW Madison Oral History Program Web site.
Students marching on Langdon Street, 1960s
After a slow start to the season, the 1940-1941 UW men's basketball team dominated the Big Ten conference and went on to become UW's first—and so far only—national champions.
Look at images and read more about these Badger history-makers.
1940-1941 UW Men's Basketball Program.
In 1997, former UW student Jim Feldman published The Buildings of the University of Wisconsin. It was the first comprehensive account of all of the physical structures that make up the UW-Madison campus—from heating plants and parking structures to the more stately facades of Bascom and Science Halls.
This digital collection combines the original text with additional images of the buildings.
Science Hall, c. 1887
Hoofers had its start in 1931, when a professor, an administrator, and several students joined forces to promote outdoor activities and to provide access to recreational equipment. Hoofers has since grown to become one of the largest student outdoor recreation organizations in the country and currently has approximately 2,200 members in six clubs: Sailing, Ski and Snowboard, Riding, Mountaineering, Outing, and SCUBA.
This timeline traces the history of the Hoofers organization from the 1920s through the 1970s.
Hoofers coed ski jumpers, c. 1947
Thomas Evans and Mary Clark Brittingham were one of Madison's most recognizable couples in the early 1900s. A combination of wealth, social status, and affiliations enabled them to exert influence on the policies and landscape of their city.
Brittingham children in the snow, 1901
In 2004 the University of Wisconsin-Madison celebrated the 30th anniversary of women's intercollegiate athletics. But women's sports at Wisconsin enjoy a much older and richer tradition than this milestone suggests.
This narrative traces the history of Wisconsin women's athletics back to the 19th Century.
Women sprinters, 1921
Alan "The Horse" Ameche played football at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1951-1954. A consensus All-American, Ameche was Wisconsin's first Heisman trophy winner, in 1954. After graduating from UW, Ameche was drafted by the Baltimore Colts and played six seasons for them.
Alan Ameche, 1953
Brief biographical sketches and photographs of every chief executive of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, starting with John Hiram Lathrop in 1849.
Includes a link to a similar page about the presidents of the University of Wisconsin system.
First Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin
This photo gallery was developed as a research tool to inventory and assess cultural landscape resources on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. While individual buildings help to define the landscape, the focus of this collection is not so much on the structures themselves, but on how the buildings help to define an outdoor space. Hosted by the UW Digital Collections Center.
In addition to looking at specific campus sectors, a broad archaeological survey of campus was conducted, focusing on nearly 100 acres of campus lands where several new ancient habitation sites were identified.
Observatory Hill Burial Mound
The History of Women at the University of Wisconsin collection augments the general histories of the University by focusing on the roles and activities of women students, faculty, and staff and on the development of women's studies throughout the System. Hosted by the UW Digital Collections Center.
The initial collection consists of seven works published by the University between 1980 and 2001.
Take Back the Night Rally, 1982
The story of Mildred Fish Harnack, Wisconsin native and UW-Madison graduate. Mildred was executed by the Nazis in 1943 for her association with the Red Orchestra, a German anti-Hitler resistance movement. Includes photographs, documents, samples of Mildred's writing, and correspondence between Mildred and her husband, Arvid Harnack, also executed by the Nazis.
Mildred Fish Harnack, 1926
Stories, essays, letters, poems, biographies, journals and tidbits from Wisconsin history. Contains a wealth of profusely illustrated first-hand accounts. A cooperative digital imaging project of the University of Wisconsin-Madison General Library System and the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Hosted by the UW Digital Collections Center.
First Photo of a University of Wisconsin Band
This collection contains unique and valuable titles on ecology and natural resources, as well as writings about research conducted by University of Wisconsin faculty and staff. Hosted by the UW Digital Collections Center. Resources include:
- Arboretum Unpublished Research Works
- Images from the Aldo Leopold Papers, 1903-1948
- Virginia M. Kline Collection: Ecological Communities of Wisconsin
- Wisconsin Land Economic Inventory Maps (Bordner Survey)
Prunus americana flowers, East Curtis Prairie
Home Economics to Human Ecology is a digital collection of photographs and ephemera illustrating aspects of the past 100 years at the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Hosted by the UW Digital Collections Center.
The collection also contains the full-text of Rima D. Apple's The Challenge of Constantly Changing Times: From Home Economics to Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin--Madison 1903-2003
Food Chemistry Lab, c. 1915
Materials about the State of Wisconsin and its history and ongoing development. These published and archival materials were digitized from a variety of formats including books, manuscripts, sound recordings, photographs, and maps. Hosted by the UW Digital Collections Center.
Includes many resources closely related to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, including:
- Board of Regents Reports to the Governor, 1852-1914 (click on Public Documents of the State of Wisconsin)
- Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters
- The Story of Madison, by Reuben Gold Thwaites
Christmas tree and patients at Bradley Memorial Hospital
from the Wisconsin Traditions of Social Care Collection
The Literature Collection is a multi layered grouping of works in literature and the humanities. From medieval to modern, scholarly to satirical, there is something for everyone. Hosted by the UW Digital Collections Center.
Includes the full text of the Wisconsin Literary Magazine from 1903-1929, to which many University of Wisconsin-Madison students and faculty contributed over the years.
Women Reading, c. 1915
Harvey D. Long, for the University Archives
In search of opportunity, African-Americans entered the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the late 19th century. William Noland, a student in the Classical Department, graduated in 1875. Noland is the first known African-American to attend and graduate from UW. After Noland, African-Americans trickled into the university. The McCard brothers, William and Henry, attended UW in the 1890s. William was a skilled debater, whereas Henry was a member of the University Mandolin Club. The 1890s also saw the first African-American graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School: William T. Green. The first African-American woman, Mabel Watson Raimey, would not graduate until 1918.
This exhibit, though on going, attempts to document the accomplishments and challenges of African-Americans at the University of Wisconsin. A guide including archival material will soon be made available. There is still much research to be done on the African-American experience at the University of Wisconsin.
For more information, please contact the University Archives.
Portrait of William Noland from 1875 Class Album