Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey Digital Collection

URLs to browse or search the collections

Since its official creation by the state legislature in 1897, the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey has produced a wide range of documents describing the natural history, geography, geology, soils, and groundwater of the state. WisconsinGeologicalSurvey.org The following collections represent the wide range of work carried out by the Survey from its early days to the present.

Bulletins – These reports, dating from 1898 until 2008, describe the natural history, geography, geology, soils, and groundwater of the state. Many are illustrated with photographs, figures and fold-out maps as well as explanatory text. From its early days to the present, the Survey’s most significant original research has been published in its bulletins.

Maps – This subcollection includes a hydrographic map series that produced from 1898 to 1901. Surveyors made soundings through the ice to measure lake depth and to produce bathymetric contours.

Lake Superior Notebooks – These field notebooks are part of a collection of 452 notebooks from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Lake Superior Division. Beginning in 1882 and continuing through 1922, they primarily document field work performed in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan, as well as field trips taken across the United States and Canada. Sixty-five of these notebooks were written by Charles R. Van Hise, president of the University of Wisconsin from 1903 until 1918. Included in the notebooks are two ledgers labeled “lithological descriptions.” They contain detailed descriptions written by Van Hise and his mentor, Roland Irving, of rock samples collected during this field work.

F.T. Thwaites Papers – this sub-collection contains the professional papers of Fredrik Turville Thwaites, a prominent Wisconsin geologist whose fifty year career was marked by widely ranging interests and innovative research, and whose work, especially in the area of Pleistocene geology, was unmatched by his contemporaries. Thwaites’ published reports touched on nearly every aspect of geology including Precambrian and Paleozoic bedrock, groundwater, stratigraphy, historical geology, geomorphology and research methodology. He even published a long and exhaustive report on photography for field geologists. This online collection covers the period from 1906, when Thwaites completed his B.A. thesis, to 1961, when he died, and consists of correspondence, unpublished reports , textbook manuscripts, and course materials from classes Thwaites taught. There is also an album of photographs taken by Thwaites of geological and geographical features throughout Wisconsin.

Photographs – This collection contains more than 4,000 photographs many taken by prominent geologists such as H.R. Aldrich, E.F. Bean, W.O. Hotchkiss, F.T. Thwaites, and E.O. Ulrich, between 1910 and 1935. The collection is subdivided into Mines, Water, People, Transportation, Exposed Rock, Glacial Landforms, and Parks and Natural Areas. Some of the geologists associated with this collection are: H.R. Aldrich, E.F. Bean, W.O. Hotchkiss, F.T. Thwaites, and E.O. Ulrich.

About the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey

The Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey can trace its history back to the very beginnings of Wisconsin statehood. In the 1880s, in an earlier incarnation, the Survey published a comprehensive four-volume study of Wisconsin’s geology and geography. Since 1964, the Survey has been a part of the University of Wisconsin-Extension. It continues to produce maps and publications both for geology professionals and for the general public. City and county governments, engineers, schools, and conservation groups are among those that depend on research done by the Survey for projects and developments. Ongoing work includes county-by-county mapping of Wisconsin bedrock, water table mapping, and studies in stratigraphy, springs, and groundwater quality.