The Dane County Historical Society is a private non-profit, 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. In January 1961, DCHS affiliated with the Wisconsin Historical Society. Our charter meeting was held on February 13, 1961, at the Dane County Fairgrounds. In our first year, 143 people were awarded “Charter Memberships.”
The Society’s mission is to preserve and promote Dane County’s history. We do this in several ways:
The Dane County Historical Society collects published and unpublished materials and other primary and secondary sources relating to Dane County history. Once collected, these materials are housed at the Otto Schroeder Archives and Record Center on the lower level of the Lussier Family Heritage Center. A generous gift of $50,000 from Amy Gilliland made it possible for DCHS to be part of the Lussier Family Heritage Center building project. In honor of Amy’s gift, DCHS named the Otto SchroederArchives and Records Center after Amy’s grandfather.
We want everyone to use our materials. Making an appointment is as simple as emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Generally, it’s best to review our online catalog before making an appointment. In some cases, we may be able to copy the material you want. This might involve a charge for staff time and copying but might save you a trip to the archives.
The precursor to the Schroeder Archives and Records Center was the Dane County Records Center, established in 1968 through a partnership with DCHS, the Madison Public Library, and the Dane County Library Service. With this partnership in place, Madison’s central library provided space for the Dane County Records Center in the basement. Library services offered free transportation. This unique partnership was so well received that it won a national award from the American Association of State and Local History.
Collections and Projects
The Dane County Historical Society has several ongoing collections and projects.
Madison Central High School was Dane County’s oldest high school. The Tychoberahn yearbook was first published in 1900. The publication’s name is derived from two Indian words: “tah-hah,” the word for lake, and “tshopiwi,” a word meaning four. The words were combined to form Taychoperah, the name that the Ho-Chunk people gave to the four lakes region around Madison. The Dane County Historical Society has digitized some of these yearbooks, which can be accessed here.
During the 1980s, Historic Madison Inc. boars members Ruth Doyle and Hallie Lou Blum led an initiative to conduct a series of oral histories with prominent and impactful Madisonians. The last interviews were conducted in 1991, but the audio stayed on cassette tapes until 20 years later, when volunteers began digitizing and transcribing the interviews. This digitzation effort was finally completed in 2023 by the Dane County Historical Soceity.
The Dane County Historical Society’s Historical markers highlight significant people, places, and events in the County’s history. Since 1963, DCHS has erected over 47 markers countywide. See more about our markers program, including an interactive map, here.
Ferdinand L. Kronenberg’s (1877-1944) work spanned nearly five decades in Madison. He lived and worked for most of his life at various addresses on and around Williamson Street on Madison’s isthmus. Many Kronenberg-designed buildings survive today. Together, they give Madison much of its unique historic architectural identity. His architectural drawings and plans have been digitized here.
Martin Schneider’s prolific body of architectural work includes designs in most of the styles popular in the 1910s through the 30s. His designs include both residential and commercial buildings. Many of his buildings are still standing, and are recognizable landmarks today. His architectural drawings and plans have been digitized here.
The collection was donated to the Dane County Historical Society in 1975 – 1985 by Walter and Gertrude Scott. Walter Scott (1911-1983) is a well-known naturalist who was inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in 1995. He also had a penchant for preserving local history and was one of the founders of Historic Madison Inc. This extensive collection includes three scrapbooks, presumably compiled by Walter Scott, consisting primarily of newspaper clippings. Taken as a whole, these three scrapbooks document the public efforts, surrounded by controversy played out in the local newspaper coverage, to make the Cherokee Marsh, an environmentally critical part of the Yahara River headwaters, a public conservation park. This collection has been digitized here.
The Dane County Historical Society has published two books about Dane County history. Both are available for sale. In 2001, the Dane County Historical Society published Forward! A History of DANE The Capital County. Although written 20 years ago, it is still the best reference work for anyone studying Dane County history. Dane County Historical Society has also published Back to Beginnings: The Early Days of Dane County, which is richly illustrated and suitable for adults and children alike.
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Below is an introductory video with Rick Bernstein, DCHS’s Executive Director. Before joining DCHS, Rick retired from the Wisconsin Historical Society. He worked there for almost thirty years and brought that experience to bear. The archives is available upon appointment. Call us at 608 224-3605. Better yet, for a faster response, please email us at email@example.com to set up an appointment.