University of Wisconsin Colleges Historic Photos Collection

URLs to browse or search the collections

The University of Wisconsin Colleges was created in approximately its current form after World War II when the Board of Regents adopted a formal policy encouraging counties and municipalities to provide land and buildings for use by the University of Wisconsin. At that time, the campuses were part of the UW-Extension.

Starting in 1971, when a merger joined the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin State University systems into a single University of Wisconsin System, the campuses became part of the UW System operating as a single institution. The 13 physical campuses adopted the University of Wisconsin Colleges name in 1997. In 2005 the Board of Regents placed the UW Colleges and UW-Extension under a single chancellor and administration bringing the outreach missions of UW Colleges and UW-Extension back together again. Most recently in 2013, the UW Colleges added an applied Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree to its existing 2-year liberal arts Associate degree.

Since their inception, the UW Colleges have offered their students a rich variety of extracurricular offerings including athletics, music and performing arts, student life, student clubs and organizations, honors and developmental programs in addition to the general liberal arts education courses that comprise the Associate Arts and Sciences degree. The UW Colleges Historic Photos Collection draws from that rich 50+ year history and contains thousands of photographs, slides, posters, and, more recently, digital images from the 13 current campuses. Selected images are also included from the Medford campus which closed in the 1980s.

The history of the UW Colleges through the 1990s is well-documented in the UW-Richland County Professor Emeritus of History Jerry Bower’s book, The University of Wisconsin Colleges, 1919-1997: the Wisconsin idea at work. This photo collection compliments Dr. Bower’s authoritative narrative and, at the same time, provides our students, faculty, staff, alumni and broader communities with an important primary source that helps document the storied history of the UW Colleges.

Image Source:

UW-Waukesha registration, Mount St. Paul College, 1966.


Click to read Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Council of UW Libraries and the Digital Collections Coordinating Committee for their generous financial support of this project. We would also like to recognize the talented staff at the UW Digital Collections Center for their work bringing the project to fruition. Finally, we’d like to thank the hard-working staff of the UW Colleges Libraries and Marketing & Communications Departments for their work selecting and describing identifying all the photos during a time of considerable institutional transformation.


This project was funded through the Digital Collections Coordinating Committee, part of the Council of UW Libraries.