Closed Dec 6: The Wisconsin Historical Society will be closing its historic sites in addition to the library and archives reading rooms at the Society's headquarters building on December 6th for an all-staff conference.

2023 Museum Exhibit Award Winners | Wisconsin Historical Society

Feature Story

2023 Museum Exhibit Award Winners Announced

2023 Museum Exhibit Award Winners | Wisconsin Historical Society

The UW Public History Project and Oshkosh Public Museum have received the 2023 Museum Exhibit Awards.

About the Exhibits

Museum Exhibit Award, Budget Over $5,000
UW Public History Project, "Sifting and Reckoning: UW-Madison's History of Exclusion and Resistance"

Spanning over 150 years, "Sifting and Reckoning" was a physical and digital exhibition that brought to light stories of struggle and perseverance at UW-Madison. Through archival objects, photographs, and oral histories and other materials, the exhibit illuminated under-recognized histories in the university’s past, focusing on experiences of marginalized groups and their acts of resistance.

"Sifting and Reckoning" was born in 2019 as a campus mandate by Chancellor Rebecca Black to uncover and give voice to the many groups across the institution’s history who experienced and challenged discrimination and exclusion on campus. This project exemplifies the critical work of relevant history to make sense of the present and responding to community needs. Campus community members requested a study following the 2017 violence at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and to understand the history of two UW campus groups in the 1920s that bore the name of the Ku Klux Klan. The campus responded by launching this study. A model for engagement and accessibility, the project team worked with numerous students, staff, faculty, and alumni groups to ensure historic context and community perspectives outside the mainstream narratives were shared and centered in the exhibit. The incorporation of a website ensured the entire exhibit and source materials were available in perpetuity and available to a national audience. The project team also hosted numerous receptions and talks, as well as creating a collection of curricular materials based on the exhibit research. Because of the success of the project, the university turned the project into a permanent office to continue its work.

Museum Exhibit Award, Budget Under $5,000
Oshkosh Public Museum, "Helen Farnsworth Mears: A Genius of Wisconsin"

This temporary exhibit commemorated the 150th birthday of noted Oshkosh sculptor Helen Farnsworth Mears. The exhibit explored her life, career, and art. New information pulled from the Mary Mears Collection, purchased by the Museum at auction in 2017, was included to offer visitors more understanding of Helen Farnsworth Mears’ personality and work. The exhibit featured her art from the Museum’s collection and loans from other Wisconsin museums.

The Oshkosh Public Museum (OPM) developed an exceptionally strong exhibition that brought fresh attention to a critical artist in Wisconsin history, Helen Farnsworth Mears. Utilizing a new archival collection, the OPM’s exhibit provided significant new scholarship on her life and career. The exhibit designer utilized a small budget to produce an elegant exhibit that appropriately highlighted the original works and learning goals. Most importantly, the interpretation was thoughtfully developed to make important connections with her life and work to local, state, and national history.

About the Award

Two awards for historical exhibits on Wisconsin themes are offered each year: one for an exhibition budget of $5,000 or less and one for an exhibition budget greater than $5,000. Each award is given to the organization that creates an exhibit that meets the award criteria and, in the opinion of the judges, made the most valuable contribution to public understanding of Wisconsin's past during the preceding calendar year.

Learn More