About the Division of Library-Archives | Wisconsin Historical Society

Organizational Description

About the Division of Library, Archives and Museum Collections

About the Division of Library-Archives | Wisconsin Historical Society

The Division of Library, Archives and Museum collections acquires, preserves and provides access to documentary and artifactual evidence about the history of Wisconsin, the United States, and Canada. With over 4 million items, our genealogy and history collections are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world documenting North American history.

The Society's Library and Archives is also the American History Library for the University of Wisconsin, an official depository for local, state and federal government publications, and the State Archives which preserves state and local government records of historical importance. The Area Research Center Network, a unique alliance between the Historical Society and the four-year campuses of the UW System, makes most of the archival collections available within easy driving distance of all state residents.

Highlights from our collections are available online in Explore our Collections. We also invite you to Research Your Family History using premier genealogy collections documenting not only Wisconsin but all of the United States and Canada.

About Our Collections

The Library and Archives provide access to 3.8 million printed and microform North American volumes, 25,000 maps, 3 million historical images and 110,000 cubic feet of archival materials. Extensive online collections provide access to millions of web visitors. Our history and genealogy holdings are national in scope.


The Wisconsin Historical Society Archives collects, preserves and makes available unpublished records, such as hand-written manuscripts of people and organizations, photographs, sound recordings, maps, records of state and local governments and other original documents. Learn how to search our Archives collections.

Material Available

The Archives is open to the public and provides access to historical records, films, maps, photographs, sound recordings, videos and other records documenting not only Wisconsin history, but also several major areas of national history, including:

  • Early American exploration and settlement
  • Mass Communications history
  • Social action movements, such as the Civil Rights Movement
  • U.S. labor history and business records
Specialties and Strengths
Area Research Centers

In partnership with the University of Wisconsin System, the Archives operates 14 area research centers, which give the public unprecedented access to the full range of local, state and national historical records housed by the Archives.

County and Municipal Records

The Society has statutory responsibility to collect, maintain and make available for use records of Wisconsin's local governments and court system. Local governments include municipalities, towns, school districts, counties and special districts.

Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research

The Archives provides patrons with access to the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, one of the premier centers for study of the nation's film, television and theater history.

Wisconsin State Archives

The Society maintains the State Archives and has statutory responsibility to collect, maintain and make available for use, permanently valuable records of Wisconsin's state government.


The Wisconsin Historical Society Library provides general public access to books, magazines, newspapers, government information, compact discs and other formats of published materials. Learn how to search our Library collections.

Material Available

The Library provides access to published materials that document North American history, including: books, family history records, newspapers, periodicals, government publications, pamphlets and other resources.

The Library's stack levels are open to the public. Experienced staff members are available to answer questions related to finding library materials. Although genealogical materials do not circulate, state residents and UW students may borrow most government publications and works of general history.

Specialties and Strengths
Family History

We offer patrons one of the nation's premier collections of published and unpublished materials essential to researching family lineage and history. Explore the following types of records: cemetery, census, church, family histories, images, immigration, local histories, maps, military, naturalization, newspapers and vital records (birth, death, marriage). The collections cover not only Wisconsin, but all of the United States and Canada.

Government Publications

The Library is the official depository for all State of Wisconsin publications and, with the University of Wisconsin, is a regional depository for United States government publications. It is also a selective depository for Canadian national and provincial documents and holds official state publications from many states outside Wisconsin.

Wisconsin, and Beyond ...

Our collections document history far beyond the borders of Wisconsin. For a century and a half the Library has collected the history of the U.S. and Canada, including political and military affairs, multicultural history, women's history, religion, folklore, anthropology, architecture, labor history, genealogy and more.

Have Questions?

Contact our Library and Archives staff at 608-264-6535 or by email below: