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Radioactive book coverThis year’s Go Big Read book, Radioactive by Lauren Redniss, tells the story of Marie and Pierre Curie, a European couple responsible for discovering the atomic properties of radioactivity. The couple won a Nobel Prize in physics and Marie went on to win another in chemistry as she continued her research after Pierre passed away. The Curies’ discovery gave way to the nuclear technology we embrace today in the realms of energy production, medicine and warfare. Author Lauren Redniss will be speaking about the book at Union South at 7:00 p.m. Monday, October 15.

Although Marie Curie never ventured to the UW campus, the Daily Cardinal and Wisconsin Alumnus publication covered the story of Madame Curie coming to America. She was invited to the White House by President Harding to receive a $100,000 gram of radium. The gift was made possible by donations from thousands of American women and in part by the University of Wisconsin with a contribution of $147.50. Before she went to Washington, D.C. Curie appeared at Carnegie Hall to be honored for her scientific advancements. She was greeted by the largest assemblage of college women in the U.S. to date.

Marie Curie conducted all of her work far before scientists were aware of the damaging effects caused by radioactive isotopes. She regularly carried these elements in her pocket, conducted research in a shed, and never used protective gear that is now standard in nuclear and radioactive research. Even her possessions are untouchable, including her cookbook and papers from the 1890s.

More info on Radioactive, the Go Big Read program, and an evening with Lauren Redniss.


Today marks the 84th birthday for one of the UW-Madison’s most meaningful landmarks.  1928 saw the doors of the Memorial Union open for the first time and it has remained a communal campus resource for students, faculty and staff since that day.  There is perhaps no spot on campus that for students, alumni and community members means UW more than the Memorial Union.

Here’s a (very) brief timeline highlighting events at the Union over the decades:

Pre-union period
UW President Charles Van Hise originally prompted the construction of a Union building in 1904 with a purpose of providing for “the communal life of instructors and students in work, in play, and in social relations.” In 1921, the Memorial Union Building Committee sent a pamphlet to alumni and other potential donor constituents to sell the concept of a student Union. A piece of Union fundraising propaganda from November 1921 boasts the proposed amenities, including the now famous terrace, accommodating eateries, and a theater with professional stage equipment.
Construction/Early years
The building cornerstone, laid in 1927, contains the University’s military service record, a list of Union donors and another of Gold Star Honor Roll recipients. Exactly 84 years ago today, the Memorial Union opened its doors, dedicated to the men and women of UW who served in America’s wars. UW President Glenn Frank (1925-1937) said the Union serves as a living room for the home of learning that is our great university.
The Board of Regents approved the sale of 3.2 beer on campus in 1933, making the Memorial Union the first Union to serve beer at a public university. The German beer hall-themed Rathskeller (German: bar below street level), almost entirely unchanged since its construction, was originally a ‘men’s club.’ Commonly dubbed the ‘Rath,’ this ground-level area of the Memorial Union continues to be a popular social space for UW students.
Phase 1 of the Memorial Union Reinvestment Project began this past summer, focusing restoration efforts on the west wing and 5th floor of the building (below). The Wisconsin Union Directorate (WUD), comprised of students, plans events in multiple disciplines and media.
The Union is one of Wisconsin’s finest traditions and will likely have a large presence on campus for another 84 years to come. Happy Birthday, Memorial Union. See more images and read more history in the UW-Madison Collection.

Early Dorm Living

South Hall

The first classes at the UW Madison were held in the winter of 1849 and with an class of only 17 students, dormitories were not a pressing need. But, by just the next year, the Board of Regents had approved plans for the construction of the first dorms on campus, simply called North Hall (1851) and South Hall (1855). The units had outdoor privies and students had to bring water in from a nearby well, but they did have furnaces, which were so bad at heating the buildings that they were done away with within years, leaving the heating to fireplaces. There were no RAs, no sophisticated mechanisms for collecting fees and managing furniture. Those duties actually fell to the Dean of Faculty and Vice-Chancellor, John Sterling.

Once women were admitted to the University, South Hall became exclusively, though briefly dedicated to their housing; women were moved to the obviously named Ladies Hall in 1874. Ladies Hall was renamed Chadbourne Hall in 1901 for largely two reasons. First, Chancellor Paul Chadbourne had acquired the lot for the UW, but more interestingly, E.A. Birge thought, "it was only fair that Dr. Chadbourne's contumacy regarding coeducation should be punished by attaching his name to a building which turned out [to be] one of the main supports of coeducation." So, for those out there counting, Chadbourne Hall was the first (and perhaps only) dorm named to spite and honor the same man.Chancellor Paul Chadbourne

More early dorm history can be found in Barry Teicher's A History of Housing at the University of Wisconsin and there are pictures and postcards of dorm life throughout the UW Madison Collection.





University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center

The University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center (UWDCC) seeks a highly motivated and creative student to work closely with staff to market our digital resources to both campus and external audiences. This position offers an excellent opportunity for hands-on experience developing and implementing marketing activities for our growing digital library collections. Interest in Web-based marketing is a must!

Position Title: Digital Collections Marketing Assistant
Pay:  $9 hr
Hours:  8-10 hours a week, flexible schedule (between 8-5, M-F)

Start date: Fall semester

Location: UW-Madison, 431 Memorial Library


This position will be responsible for but not limited to the following:

·         Provide creative input for the development of marketing activities and associated materials

·         Conduct research to identify potential audiences for marketing activities

·         Create and implement Web-based and traditional marketing activities

·         Complete routine and incremental (weekly/monthly) marketing tasks


·         Great communication and organizational skills

·         Excellent writing and design skills

·         Work or academic experience in marketing or communications

·         Outstanding Microsoft Office Skills, with emphasis on Excel. Photoshop and Web experience is a plus!

·         Good project management skills and strong attention to detail, with timely and accurate follow-up through completion.

·         Currently enrolled at UW Madison.

How to Apply

Please email your resume and 2 references to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by September 7, 2012. No phone calls, please.

The University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center
The UWDCC supports the educational and outreach missions of the University of Wisconsin by providing professional leadership in the creation of quality digital resources from libraries and archives for faculty, staff and students, citizens of the state and scholars at large. Located on the UW-Madison campus, the UWDCC has digitized over one-million objects, developed and implemented technologies to enhance digital collections, and partnered with a variety of content providers to create illustrative and valuable digital resources. For more information, visit the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center at http://uwdc.library.wisc.edu/.


A "Kenosha Lost Industry": The Pirsch Company

Nash, the American Motor Company, The Rambler. Solar lamps, wagon works and underwear. Starting in the 1850s, Kenosha, situated on the banks of Lake Michigan, became the home to various and varied industries. Over the years, the city became a major manufacturing center intertwined with regional, national and international economies. One relatively unknown industry was the Pirsch Company, maker of fire engines and fire fighting apparatus. Founded in 1857 by Nicholas Pirsch, the company provided the city of Kenosha with its very first motorized fire engine around 1910. By 1970, Pirsch was the leading producing of fire fighting equipment in the United States, but increasing competition led the company's bankruptcy in 1987.

Motorized Engine Pirsch Engine in Action

Learn more about the Pirsch Company as well as dozens of other companies from Kenosha's industrial past in Kenosha's Lost Industries: Photographs and Corporate Materials, 1850s-1990s.


 Pirsch Company Brochure 



Democrat Printing Company


Cover of Democrat Printing Specimen BookMany Madisonians are familiar with the distinct cursive logo or perhaps the starkly angled building on Fordem Avenue of Webcrafters, the long established, family-owned printing company on Madison's near Northeast side. But, what many may not know is that Webcrafters was a spin-off of the Democrat Printing Company which itself can trace its roots to one of Madison's earliest newspapers, indeed the city's first daily newspaper, The Madison Democrat.


The newspaper was sold to the Wisconsin State Journal in 1921, but the printing business continued. Within the Silver Buckle Press collection  you can see a small sample of the type of work the Democrat Printing Co. performed. The 1940 Specimen book was meant to advertise the range and quality of type the printer had to offer. From Bondoni Monder to Futura Bold, the Democrat Printing Co. could meet the printing needs of any number of customers. In the company's own words, the specimen book was hoped to be, "an important and useful working tool for customers and friends of "the Democrat."

Explore the Democrat Printing Company Specimen book, just a small bit of printing and Madison history, online. And, read more about the Madison Democrat in Roland Strand's Story of The Democratavailable for check out through the UW Libraries.


Archives of Archaeology



Ancient technologies, like phones mounted to the wall or floppy discs, are often important steps in the advancement of knowledge and understanding. They can, though briefly, be the height of popularity and transform the way we go about our life. Microcards were none of these things, though it might have been. Intended to make it easier (especially for libraries) to store large amounts of information, the microcard was invented in the mid-1940s and reached peak use within the next 15 years. Soon, microcards were eclipsed by microfiche and eventually, digitization and the Internet.

The Society for American Archaeologists took a chance on the short lived technology and published 39 volumes of the Archives of Archaeology on microcard. This publication, made up of 29 archaelogical reports, has been long neglected since so few people have ever heard of microcard, let alone have access to a reader. With the hard work of Professor Joe Tiffany at the UW-La Crosse as well as libarians Anita Evans and Bill Doering at the UW-La Crosse Murphy, the publication is now fully searchable and online. The series was edited by the late David A. Baerreis, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Through the digitization of Archives of Archaeology, scholars can now easily learn about tools, housing, trade goods and more of the peoples of such diverse geographic locations as Iowa, California, Mexico and Belize (then known as British Honduras).



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