Special Collections Fall 2021 Exhibit – Science at UW-Madison: Sources for its History

September 16, 2021

Exploring the history of any scientific field at UW-Madison would be a daunting prospect, much more so teaching and research across the sciences here over some 170 years. The current exhibit in Special Collections, “Science at UW-Madison: Sources for its History,” focuses instead on various sources, from University Archives and elsewhere, that can illuminate such a broad subject.

There are many more stories to be told and discoveries made, whether in paper files, online sources, oral histories, photograph collections, and other media as preserved in University Archives, Special Collections, and elsewhere. In materials made widely available through UW Digitized Collections, in stories in campus publications and news, and in the published record of scientific research held in campus libraries or made available online. Through this exhibit, we hope to encourage further exploration of the vast array of relevant sources.

The exhibit highlights:

  • science departments’ histories, published in paper form or online
  • campus maps and historical markers recording the construction of laboratory facilities and teaching buildings connected with the sciences (and notable campus faculty after whom some buildings were named)
  • university budgets and their effects on science departments, including salary “waivers” imposed during the Great Depression
  • research and writings of scientists turned UW presidents or UW-Madison chancellors
  • campus publications designed to spotlight scientific accomplishments and their relevance to the Wisconsin Idea
  • influential science textbooks produced by campus faculty
  • campus library collections for the sciences and systems for managing scientific literature
  • archival collections documenting interdisciplinary facilities like the Synchrotron and Biotron
  • accounts of research funding and the significance of WARF
  • Typewritten letters, telegrams, and born-digital documents at the intersection of scientific research and national politics