Exhibits in Special Collections

Science at UW-Madison: Sources for its History

An Exhibit in the Department of Special Collections

976 Memorial Library

Through December 3, 2021

Framed print entitled “New Science Hall, Chemical Laboratory & Machine Shop. State University, Madison.” From the collection of the late Prof. David Woodward. The controversy regarding the construction and funding for these buildings is detailed in appendix A of The buildings of the University of Wisconsin by Jim Feldman, available in UW Digitized Collections.

Exploring the history of any one 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 the variety of sources, from University Archives and elsewhere, that can illuminate such a broad subject.

The exhibit highlights:

  • science departments’ own 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.
Prof. Elizabeth McCoy of Bacteriology. University Archives, biographical files; also available in UW Digitized Collections, S08142. For more, see Eric Hamilton, “UW’s Elizabeth McCoy was a pioneer of 20th century microbiology,”

And there are many more stories to be told and discoveries to be made — 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; as well as 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 wide array of relevant sources. A checklist of the exhibit is available.

The exhibit is open Monday-Friday 9 AM-5 PM on the 9th floor of Memorial Library.

Science Hall. Undated picture postcard. University Archives. 9/1 (436 photo collection), box 250, folder 4.