Creating Old World Wisconsin
The Struggle to Build an Outdoor History Museum of Ethnic Architecture
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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Writ ing a book is a col lec tive ef fort. Rec og niz ing those who pro vided crit i cal as sis tance is both ex hil ar at ing and hum bling. Marty Per kins, the cu ra tor of re search at Old World Wis con sin, sat for nu mer ous inter views, searched re lent lessly for doc u ments and photo graphs, never balked at my nu mer ous re quests for in for ma tion, and served as my ...
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This is the story of a few in di vid u als who strug gled to ful fill a vi sion. The Wis con sin vi sion en tailed sal vag ing fast dis ap pear ing ar ti facts by re lo cat ing them to a pro tected en vi ron ment. Noth ing sur pris ing, ex cept that in this case the ar ti facts were houses, shops, barns, and a va riety of out build ings. In di vid u als—State His tor i cal So ci ety of Wis con-sin (SHSW) staff and vol un teers who worked under the um brella of ...
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Sev eral in spi ra tions af fected the crea tion of state-funded mu seums in the United States. The great out door his tory mu seums of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, funded by pri vate phi lan thro pists, in flu enced state-sponsored mu seums. For ex am ple, the St. Mary’s City Com mis-sion, which the state of Ma ry land As sem bly had charged to create a site at the lo ca tion of the first found ing of the Ma ry land col ony, looked ...
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Lex i cog ra pher Dr. Sam uel John son (1709–84) once re marked: “Great works are per formed not by strength but by per se ver ance.” As will be dem on strated, per se ver ance was the key weapon in the Society’s ar senal. Sim ply put, more than a decade after in itiat ing its sites pro jects, the So ci ety was not in a strong po si tion to launch a new pro ject of the mag ni tude en vi sioned by Per rin. Lack of per son nel trained and ex pe ri-...
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As the ac qui si tion of the site bogged down in pro tracted nego ti a tions, Fishel moved to ac com plish an other major in cre men tal goal. He knew the vi sion had to be trans formed into a plan that would guide the ac qui si tion and re lo ca tion of build ings on the an tic i pated site. Plan ning, even with out the site, was in dis pens able for mov ing for ward. Lack ing a ready cash re serve, Fishel had to se cure the ser vices of a plan ner at ...
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The bat tle of Eagle took So ci ety lead ers by sur prise. After the pro tracted strug gle with the DNR to se cure a lease for the state for est, they never im a gined that an even more in tense con flict awaited them. Fishel knew that im ple men ta tion of the Per rin vi sion might face ob sta cles, and for that rea son he moved slowly on the out door mu seum pro ject. He and his col leagues could not have an tic i pated the num ber ...
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If one phrase can cap ture the Society’s strug gles, it is Mark Twain’s twist on a bib li cal con cept: “The lack of money is the root of all evil.” A lack of money thwarted the Society’s ef forts to build the mu seum in a num ber of ways. If, for ex am ple, the So ci ety could have pur chased its 500 acres in the mid-1960s, crea tion of the site would have taken a very dif fer ent course. It did not, and this left the So ci ety de pen dent on ...
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To this point, the story has con cen trated on the So ci ety, the pro po sal for a site to re lo cate sal vaged build ings, writ ing a mas ter plan, ac qui si tion of the site, legal en tan gle ments with the Town of Eagle, and fund-raising. This chap ter shifts the story to the con struc tion of the site and its ex hib its. Mark Knip ping, who helped to build OWW and who would later be come the di rec tor at an other site, com pared his ex pe ri ences: ...
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Sci en tist Niels Bohr once ob served, “Pre dic tion is very dif fi cult, es pe cially about the fu ture.” No one claimed creat ing a mu seum would be easy. But then, no one fore saw the in cred ible strug gles that the So ci ety would en coun ter. By Oc to ber 1975 the So ci ety had con fronted many of these chal lenges. Creat ing a site that met the stan dards im a gined by the vi sion ar ies con tin ued to present dif fi cul ties. Three inter re lated ...
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In his anal y sis of American out door mu seums and liv ing his tory sites, Sten Rent zhog con cen trated his anal y sis on Veste rheim (a Nor we-gian American Mu seum in Dec o rah, Iowa), Green field Vil lage, Co lo nial Wil liams burg, Old Stur bridge Vil lage, the Farmer’s Mu seum in Coop ers town, Upper Can ada Vil lage, Pli moth Plan ta tion, Mys tic Sea port, Old World Wis con sin, and Liv ing His tory Farms (in Ur ban-...
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WisconsinHistoricalSocietyArchives,MadisonArchi val sources for WHS/OWW are plen ti ful. The WHS Archives houses most of them; some of the doc u ments have been pro cessed but many have not been. This means some of the doc u ments may be moved or re clas sified as the archi vists pro cess them. Fuller de scrip tions of these col lec tions may be ac cessed ...
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Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 36 b/w photos
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Wisconsin Land and Life