2. Choose an Object

Selecting the right artifact for a Wisconsin 101 object history is essential for a successful submission.

The object should have some clear connection to Wisconsin’s past, whether our cultural traditions, our inventions and discoveries, our natural environment, or our changing industries and shifting politics.

Life saving medal, 1875.
life saving medal awarded in Milwaukee in 1875—just one of countless objects rich with Wisconsin history. Wisconsin Historical Museum object 1972.31.

You should also know (or be able to easily discover) how, when, and where the object was created and who used it. It doesn’t necessarily need to be unique to Wisconsin, but it must have been a part of some important aspect of daily life in the state, with a clear link to a particular place, whether an individual home or farm, a whole town, or maybe even an entire region. Some examples include a blues record manufactured in Port Washington in the 1920s and a lifesaving medal awarded in Milwaukee in the 1890s.

The stories that an object tells should teach us something about Wisconsin, connecting a particular thing and its place with the broader history and geography of the state.

A soda bottle sold in Whitefish Bay in the early 1900s, for example, can lead us into the history of prohibition in Wisconsin, the development of Milwaukee’s resort towns, and broader patterns of urbanization in the state.

Other stories an object might tell could include trends in immigration and the formation of ethnic communities across the state, the spread of different religious practices across a region, or the rise and fall of a particular industry or form of transportation.

If you have an idea for a possible object, but want to get some feedback before moving on to the next step, don’t hesitate to email us at wi101@history.wisc.edu.

If you’re excited to write for Wisconsin 101, but don’t have any ideas for objects, we maintain a regularly updated list of suggestions on our “Objects Seeking Stories” page.

<<< Back: Step 1. Learn   |||   Forward: Step 3: Propose >>>