November 2013 Newsletter

November, 2013  ­­                                                                              Volume 11, No. 2


“Last Look at the Railroad Exhibit and Introduction to Pre-1836 Permanent Whitewater History Exhibit”

Date:               November 20, 2013

Time:               7:00 p.m.

Place:              Depot Museum


A reception with refreshments will be held at the depot museum, Whitewater Street, for the last look at our first temporary exhibit, “Good Times Coming, Whitewater and the Railroad” and an introduction to our first permanent exhibit, the cultural and ecological history of pre-1836 Whitewater.  Dr. Renae Prell-Mitchell, a member of our board of directors and a geographer and cultural ecologist, is planning the exhibit and will present her vision for this important first installation.  


As you have been hearing many times in this newsletter, the museum’s permanent  gallery exhibits will be an educational history of Whitewater, emphasizing stories from every era.  This first story will be an innovative look at Whitewater’s pre-1836 history and how both Native Americans and the earliest Yankee settlers saw and adapted to their environment. 


Depot Museum’s Winter Schedule

The depot museum’s summer and fall hours have been a big success.  The museum was open four days a week and visitor numbers were higher than anticipated.  


Since cold weather hit, visitation has dropped on Thursday afternoons, so after December 12, we will be closed that day until spring.  The depot will also be closed during Thanksgiving week and three weeks during the Christmas-New Year’s holiday.  During January, February, and March, the museum will be open three days a week.  Although visitation may be down at that time, it is important that the museum remain open for business and available to the public. 


Museum Hours:           Until December 16:  Thursday, Saturday, Sunday 1-4 and Friday 10-1

                                         Closed Thanksgiving week:  November 25—December 2

                                         Closed:  December 16—January 6

                                         January, February, March Hours: 

                                         Fridays 10-1, Saturday and Sundays 1-4


Welcome Student Intern

Leah Penskover, a public history student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, has been volunteering three hours a week at the depot museum this fall and in January, she will be doing a 10-hour per week internship for credit at the university.  Leah is a fantastic student worker and has been especially helpful in working on our museum inventory data base.               


When the museum contents were packed up for off-site storage before the renovation, a UWW student completed an initial inventory of our contents on a data base.  As we return these contents, we are working with this data base to organize artifacts into subject areas and to place them in numbered boxes on numbered shelves in the basement.  If an artifact goes into a display, that will be recorded as well.  When this very large task is completed, the museum will have, for the first time, an organized artifact inventory that will tell anyone working there where items are located and what items can be used together in displays. 


For example, the museum has many artifacts related to local historic businesses and industries that were located throughout exhibits and in various containers prior to the renovation.  After these items are returned, they will be housed together in boxes or shelves so that they can be easily accessed for exhibits or for study. With Leah’s help, this task could be completed by next summer. 


Looking Ahead to 2014

Along with the new pre-1836 exhibit installation, work is beginning on the pioneer era exhibit.  This work is being headed up by board member Karen Weston, archivist at the UWW, who is an authority on early Whitewater families.  Through our pioneer-era artifacts, Karen will tell the story of early settlers who came from the eastern United States. 


Planning is also progressing on the Civil War history exhibit.  The Civil War flag has been returned to the depot museum and Ellen Penwell, society president and curator of artifacts at Old World Wisconsin, is working on this important era in Whitewater history.  


And, the next temporary exhibit is entering the planning stage.  It will focus on artifacts that have been shown in the museum before, but will be displayed in a new way that will educate viewers on how they tell an important story about 19th and early 20th century “women’s work.”  Like the railroad exhibit, the new temporary exhibit is due to be installed by the end of April of 2014 and will run until November. 


Upcoming Programs

The society is going to present two outstanding programs in 2014.  In January, Ellen Penwell will be giving a Saturday workshop on the care and preservation of textiles. She will use the extensive textile collection of the museum to illustrate her presentations.  This will be a limited enrollment event, so watch for more publicity on how to enroll if you are interested. 


In March, the society’s “Whitewater Collects” event will return for the third year showcasing local collections and collections given to the museum in the last year.  Currently, the plan is to obtain an appraiser who can assess the value of objects for the general public. 


Whitewater History Articles in the Whitewater Press

Did you know that in most issues of The Whitewater Press, the free newspaper that publishes twice a year, there is a local history article?  In past issues, these articles have been written about the Pratt Institute, water in Whitewater’s history, and the local response to the Civil War. 

A new issue is about to “hit the stands” and has an article about the local Hawthorne-Mellody milk plant, from its beginnings as a condensery to its demise as a victim of corporate mergers and downsizing in the 1980s and 1990s.  Did you know that “Orange Julius” played a minor role in the financial woes of the milk plant?  It is a fascinating story.  Soon, all of these stories will be added to the society’s website. 


Speaking of the website. . .

Information from one of the website articles has reached a more extensive public audience recently.  For years, stories have abounded about occult happenings in Whitewater and the curious history of the old Spiritualism School in the city, the Pratt Institute.  These stories inevitably pop up around Halloween. To shed light on this unusual history, in October of 2011, society member Carol Cartwright researched and wrote a lengthly article about Spiritualism and the Pratt Institute, an article that, she hoped, separated fact from fiction and brought the true story of this topic to the public.  This article was presented at the “Supernatural Whitewater” event held with the Arts Alliance and subsequently placed on the society’s new website.

A few weeks ago, the local Good Morning Advertiser, a widely circulated publication, printed a story about the Pratt Institute that took its information from the article on the society’s website.  It was refreshing to see the real story of spiritualism published instead of the usual witches and ghost rumors.  Although the website was not credited, it is clear that this new service of the Whitewater Historical Society is helping to educate the public about the city’s history. 


Whitewater Historical Society

P. O. Box 149

Whitewater, WI  53190