Archives at UW-River Falls sees growth in student patrons

Posted November 30, 2016

The number of students visiting and using the archives at UW-River Falls is on a steady rise since 2013.

Located on the lower level of the Chalmer Davee Library, the University Archives and Area Research Center “is the official repository for the permanent, historical records of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls,” according to its website.

Patrons who use the archives register once a year, but archives Head Kathryn Otto said that the facility also keeps track of every time someone comes in. During the 2013-14 academic year, only 37 of the total 441 patrons who used the archives were students. Last year, 163 of total 579 visitors were students.

Otto said that the archives holds any “important and historical records about the university” while the Area Research Center operates in conjunction with the Wisconsin Historical Society. Local government records from Pierce, Polk, St. Croix and Burnett counties belong to the Wisconsin Historical Society but are held on campus. The facility also works with other UW campus archives, so anything can be lent back and forth. This also applies to the Wisconsin Historical Society headquarters in Madison.

The entrance area of the archives displays large photographs, some of them in black and white, of various towns in the area from many years ago. These are just a fraction of the photos kept in the archives. Images range from the 1918 UWRF basketball team to student protests in the 1960s and everything in between. If there was a significant event or group on campus anytime in the early 1900s up to today, there is probably a photo of it.

Many of the images can be seen on the university’s website by searching for “Photograph Collections.” Website users can browse hundreds of photos based on which county they were taken in. Other photos show campus history. One of the most interesting photos is of the original South Hall before it burned down in 1897.

After visitors register they enter the archives proper, where various paper documents like recipe books, manuscripts, court documents and diaries are kept.

A huge set of volumes, which Otto refers to as “the red books and the blue books,” hold the name and general information of every Wisconsin resident who served in the Civil War. This list can also be found on the Digital Collections page of the University Archives and Area Research Center website. For example, one record lists Charles A. Beebe of New Richmond, who enlisted in the Union Army on Oct. 3, 1861. The record goes to say that he died in Mississippi two years after his enlistment.

Students are able to come in and take advantage of the archives for any project or paper they need to write. The University Archives and Area Research Center is open from noon to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as from noon to 4:30 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month.