University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries

Faculty & Staff

Explore your history at the University Archives

Among the many treasures found in the University Archives is this 1909 sheet music of “On Wisconsin!” This copy is signed by lyricist Carl Beck.

The Library of the Month for October is the University Archives! All month long the Libraries celebrate with stories, photos, fun facts, and more. Join us on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about the Library of the Month.

Ever wondered how many sitting presidents have visited the UW-Madison campus? Or which buildings on campus are rumored to be haunted? Or maybe you’ve wanted to page through old yearbooks and track down some of the university’s famous alumni, or to see what issues students were writing newspaper editorials about in the 1920s compared with the 1980s.

Where can you go for all things about university history? The University Archives, housed on the 4th floor of Steenbock Library, is chock full of historical information having to do with UW-Madison.

History and Mission

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives was founded in 1951. In 1992 the University Archives became a member library of the General Library System on campus.

The University Archives is the official repository not only for the UW-Madison, but also for the UW-System Administration, and the UW Colleges and UW-Extension.

The primary purpose of the UW-Madison Archives is to: preserve University records and information of permanent historical value; provide records management services; serve as an educational resource encouraging administrative and scholarly research in its collections.

Save your place in campus history.

What’s in the Archives

  • Comprehensive ready reference materials, including the entire run of Badger Yearbooks dating back to the 1880s, Commencement programs,  and full runs of the Daily Cardinal and the Badger Herald, as well as many administrative records and faculty papers.
  • An incredible wealth of photographs donated over the last 100 years, including boxes of negatives produced by university photographers and keepsake Photo Books, some of which have been digitized by UW Digital Collections. The UW Archives and Digital Collections Center work together to digitize a variety of historical materials such as the Badger Yearbooks, the Wisconsin Alumni Magazine, campus humor magazines, student scrapbooks, campus maps and more. A very rough estimate of the Archives’ image collection is 2.5 million images.
  • 3,500 unique films, including a silent film from 1929 that documents a year in the life of a student on campus. Clips from this film can be viewed on the UW Archives YouTube channel.
  • Sound recordings, including transcription disks and WHA  broadcasts for over 20 years of campus events.
  • The University Records Management Program is housed within the University Archives. One of the major objectives of the records management program is to work with campus community with records management issues in all formats and media. Records Management assists campus offices in determining what records need to be kept and for how long.
  • Oral History Program includes approximately 1,200 oral history interviews with notable UW faculty, staff, administrators and students, some of which are available as part of the Campus Voices collection in UWDC.
  • So much more!

Find campus gems, like this Memorial Union barbershop pic, at “Found in the Archives.”

Who can use the Archives

Anyone interested in learning about campus history is welcome to visit the Archives in person (the reading room is lovely!) or online. For in-depth research questions, it’s recommended that you call or email in advance so that staff can pull the information related to your research ahead of your visit.

Not sure what you’re looking for, but want to explore anyway? We recommend subscribing to Found in the Archives, the University Archives’ Tumblr that highlights certain items from the Archives. If you see something that sparks your interest, contact the Archives to see what else they have on the subject.



Where to go for more information


In person:

Special thanks to David Null and Vicki Tobias from the University Archives for their work on this feature article.

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