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University Archives Part of National Awards for Work on Lands We Share Project

July 30, 2020

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries are thrilled to be a part of a statewide, multi-campus team honored with three awards. The Lands We Share Traveling Exhibition, which was part of the Wisconsin Farms Oral History Project, recently won the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Board of Curators 2020 Public Program Award, an award for excellence from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) in Tennessee, and the Mason Multi-Media Award through the Oral History Association OHA

The awards highlight the impact of the project’s work, which focused on the intersection of farming, land, race, and ethnicity. Organized by the UW-Whitewater Department of History and Associate Professor James Levy, the project set out to bring people from diverse backgrounds together; people often separated despite living and working in the same towns or regions.

“Being involved with this project has been a valuable experience,” says Stephanie Hoff, who worked with the LWS project. “I’m a Wisconsin girl through and through with agricultural background, but yet I’ve learned a lot about Wisconsin’s farming industry that I had not known before. I have learned about the diversity of not only what is produced but also how it’s produced and who produces it.”

The Lands We Share project (images from Ken Virden/ LWS team)

LWS is a collaboration of four University of Wisconsin campuses (Whitewater, Oshkosh, Milwaukee, and Madison). With the information gathered through countless hours, the team created a traveling exhibit that featured the stories, histories, artifacts, images, and sounds of six culturally and regionally distinct farms. Most of the nine stops on the exhibit’s tour lasted three weeks, and five included a community engagement event with farm-to-table dinners and conversations. Interviews gathered will be archived and made available to the general public. In all, the project’s leaders aimed to relate people across the state by highlighting connections to farming and the land throughout history.

“I often think back on that work and what I’ve learned — from how to get engagement on social media to the importance of sharing the stories of underrepresented communities, the epitome of oral history,” says Hoff. “I am so grateful to have had those opportunities as a college student. That experience has stayed with me as I continue my communications career as a journalist.”

The AASLH Leadership in History Awards is the nation’s most prestigious competition for recognizing achievement in state and local history. The team notes that it’s an honor to be part of a group that received the recognition from WHS and AASLH. They also say that beyond the awards, being a part of such a project was indeed a unique and impactful experience for which they are grateful.

Troy Reeves (image from Madison Magazine)

“I want to thank AASLH and WHS for honoring the project with these awards. I want to congratulate the entire team on an extraordinarily collaborative effort,” said Troy Reeves, Head of the Oral History Program at the UW Archives. “Being a part of the Lands We Share initiative has been the most challenging effort our program has undertaken logistically. Having the chance to coordinate with faculty, staff, and students on four campuses and communities across the state that created this exceptional project was well worth the effort.”

An awards reception is usually held for these honors, but due to the impact of COVID-19, in-person receptions are currently on hold. More information on any gatherings will be shared when it becomes possible.