The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters (the Academy) was chartered by the State Legislature in 1870. It is a membership organization devoted to the gathering and sharing of knowledge in the sciences, arts and letters. Members of the society were expected to do research on subjects of interest to them and to prepare papers on the results of their research. These papers were published in the Transactions of the Academy. Copies of Transactions were exchanged with other academies and organizations with similar missions all over the world. The Transactions of the Academy have been digitized and are part of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections. As a result of the exchanges with other organizations, the Academy built up a library of several thousand volumes. The postal card which is shown above was sent by Academy Librarian F. G. Hubbard to the Reale Academia de Scienze, Lettere e Belle Arti di Palermo in Italy in 1895 thanking them for a publication. A review of the annual report of the Academy for 1896 indicates that Hubbard was disbursed $10 for foreign postal cards on September 3, 1895. At two cents a card he had mailed 500 of the cards. The Academy no longer maintains a library. The library collection was transferred to University of Wisconsin - Madison Memorial Library.
The Wisconsin Historical Society has recently created a new gallery in its Wisconsin Historical Images collection featuring photographs of public libraries from the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. Thanks to Richard Wambold who assisted with this project for alerting us to this new image gallery. Publications of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, now the Wisconsin Division for Libraries, Technology, and Community Learning, often included photographs of library buildings. This is a great resource for those libraries which are included in the gallery. The Wisconsin Historical Society will sell copies of digital images in its collections. These could be used in a permanent or temporary exhibit in the library or just for future reference purposes. Other possible uses include an online or printed history of your library. The photograph above features an interior view of an early Brodhead Public Library. It is image WHI 63779 in the Wisconsin Historical Society collection.
The Wisconsin Historical Society has many physical and digital resources of interest and value to the library history buff. A fellow library history buff made me aware of an image (Image ID 4293) in the Historical Society's digital collection that pictured a railroad car library. The location of the railroad car library was given as "probably in the Madison area". However, in searching another digital collection of the Historical Society (Wisconsin Local History & Biography Articles), I came across an article in the October 30, 1938 issue of the Milwaukee Journal that told the story behind the railroad car library. According to the article, the library was located in Adams, Wisconsin, and the car was donated by the North Western Railroad at the request of the Adams Library Association (a membership library) in 1929. By 1937, the library had 2,088 books that were supplemented with 2,000 more from the state library commission. The city of Adams was only providing $314 a year to support the library. Today, Adams is home to the Adams County Public Library, a much more substantial library. Dan Calef, Director of the Adams County Public Library, is a Founding Contributor of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center. Thanks Dan.
Photograph of an early Marathon County Public Library bookmobile along with library trustees. Reproduced with permission of the library.
Many library institutions are digitizing a wide variety of printed resources which record our cultural heritage. Wisconsin has a number of major initiatives for digitizing such resources. As is often the case, libraries have a tendency to overlook their own unique heritage when pursuing digital projects. This is not the case with the Marathon County Public Library. One of the collections in the "State of Wisconsin Collection" of digital resources is the "Libraries and Schools of Marathon and Lincoln Counties" collection. For this collection the Marathon County Public Library has contributed 96 images relating to the library's history. These images include photographs and historic documents. Other libraries are encouraged to emulate the Marthon County Public Library and digitize similar resources related to your library's heritage.