Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Full Run of Kaleidoscope is Online

In 1967, Vietnam, the Beatles, and interracial marriages graced the covers of Time magazine. The Velvet Underground released their first album. So did Jimi Hendrix. Psychedelia bloomed. 1967 was also the year of the long hot summer when many cities, including Milwaukee, experienced rioting and civil unrest.​

Kaleidoscope Cover, July 1968
This was the scene at the time of Kaleidoscope‘s premiere in October of that year. Milwaukee’s underground newspaper sparked to life via its founders, editor John Kois, radio DJ Bob Reitman, and designer and rock musician John Sahli, and at the hands of its writers and the tinder of a borrowed $250. It published to instant notoriety—and excellent sales. A first issue of 3,500 sold out in two days. Articles were written on the whim of the staff and ranged across a multitude of topics, giving an alternative liberal voice to national politics, civil rights, gender and sexuality, city crime and police action, as well as the more standard fare of art, music, and literature.

The writing was unrepentant, explicit, and readers couldn’t get enough — unless they loathed it, of course. Censorship dogged the newspaper from its birth until after its end in 1971, going as far as the Supreme Court over obscenity charges (where the Court ruled in favor of Kaleidoscope and the First Amendment, much to the chagrin of the publication’s challengers). By the time the newspaper folded it had published 105 biweekly issues, of which a complete run was donated to UWM Special Collections in 2014, forming the basis of this digital collection.

Kaleidoscope offers a wealth of information about life and culture in Milwaukee during the late sixties and early seventies that is already being utilized by researchers in Special Collections on a regular basis. We are excited to be able to put this material online and to see the research that comes from making it widely available.

-Hailey Strickon

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Milwaukee Polonia Digital Collection is Live

Today we launch Milwaukee Polonia, a digital collection of nearly 32,000 historic photographs of our city’s historic Polish-American community. The launch is just in time for Milwaukee’s annual Polish Fest celebration, June 13-15, 2014. We’ve been blogging about our progress here since last year; and if you’ve been following along, you know that today represents a significant accomplishment. Today’s launch isn’t just photographs: our online collection also includes historic maps along with scholarly entries for many of the significant places, organizations, and traditions on display in the photos. The collection is now accessible online.

Mitchell Street Business District
The photographs that make up Milwaukee Polonia are the life’s work of Roman B. J. Kwasniewski, a studio photographer who worked on Milwaukee’s South Side from the 1910s through the 1940s. His portrait photography documented the important life events of the neighborhood: weddings, First Communions, Confirmations, and graduation ceremonies, including many portraits of nuns, priests, and altar boys. He also captured the neighborhood and the city itself, documenting work and family parties, picnics, parades, visits by dignitaries, street scenes, sports scenes, and even (for insurance purposes) car crashes and fire-damaged buildings.

Milwaukee Polonia is an unusually complete document of an urban ethnic community in early-to-mid twentieth century America, and is now openly available in its entirety online. We are eager to see how this nationally significant collection will be used by scholars, genealogists, students, and others interested in the history of Milwaukee, immigration, Polish-Americans, or numerous other topics that might be discovered in an image collection of this size. So let us know what you think, and how you might use Milwaukee Polonia for your own research and edification!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Milwaukee Gay/Lesbian Cable Network Videos Available Online

The UWM Libraries recently published the video archives of the Milwaukee Gay/Lesbian Cable Network (MGLCN), an important media collection relating to local LGBT history. MGLCN was a volunteer group that produced regular and special programming on gay and lesbian issues for Milwaukee’s public access channel from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. Its most significant programs were Tri-Cable Tonight and New Tri-Cable. When the first episode of Tri-Cable Tonight aired on October 27, 1987, Milwaukee joined the ranks of only ten other cities in the United States with regular gay/lesbian programming. The 30-minute programs were produced monthly (with a few exceptions), and each show broadcast about three times a month on Warner Cable Channel 14. Programs combined in-studio news presentations, interviews, and discussions with on-location coverage of community events. Regular features included a discussion of homosexuality in history, guest editorials, legal advice, and film reviews. In addition to covering local news, the program covered events of statewide and national significance, such as the National March on Washington D.C. for Lesbian/Gay Rights on October 11, 1987; the Democratic National Convention in 1988; efforts by the Rawhide Boys Ranch to exempt itself from Wisconsin’s civil rights law; and the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. The program concluded in December 1989. During its two-year run, Tri-Cable Tonight earned many awards, including first place in the 1989 Hometown USA Video competition, several MATA awards, and the Cream City Business Association’s President’s Award.

The New Tri-Cable consisted of moderated panel discussions on a specific issue. Topics included racism, homophobia, safer sex, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, and the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The program lasted from November 1990 through March/April of 1992 and consisted of 28 episodes. Both Tri-Cable Tonight and New Tri-Cable aired during a historical period marked by the AIDS crisis and rising political opposition from the Religious Right.

These programs can now be found online as the Milwaukee Gay/Lesbian Cable Network Programs. Digitization of the collection was supported by an endowment for the Archives and Special Collections established by Joseph R. Pabst and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Johnson and Pabst LGBT Humanity Fund.

-Emma Cobb

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Canons of Kosciuszko Park

The Roman Kwasniewski photograph collection includes many photographs of the Tadeusz Kosciuszko monument at Kosciuszko Park on Milwaukee’s south side. Most of the photographs were taken in the 1920s when the monument was located in its original location on the north side of the park. Those photographs all include two cannons flanking the mounted general. I frequently pass the park these days, and there are no cannons next to the monument anymore. Naturally I thought, “What happened to the cannons?”


While conducting research on a set of parade photographs that were taken around 1937, I found the key to the cannon mystery. Using the Google News database I found a Milwaukee Journal article from April 26, 1976. The article reported on a tribute the Old South Side was having for two of its famous monuments, that of Kosciuszko and another for Casimir Pulaski, two Polish heroes of the American Revolutionary War. The article quoted Kosciusko Park supervisor James Filut, who noted that the heavy cast iron cannons had been disassembled and melted down to supply armaments for the war effort in 1943.

It seems fitting that even as late as World War II, the spirit of Kosciuszko was still fighting for the United States when the cannons were melted.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Following Clues from Vietnam to Freeport, IL to Madison, WI - Harrison Forman Collection

The beauty of the Harrison Forman Collection is evident in his images taken from all over the world. What isn’t evident sometimes is the time, place or context of the images, which makes it difficult to describe them so users can find them online. Occasionally, our metadata creators refer to Forman’s notes, which may be incredibly detailed or sadly, very vague. In which case, they look for clues in the images themselves, hoping to cull as much information as possible to help users find relevant images for their research.

One such image of a man carrying a crate, as seen below, was simply labeled ‘Indo-China.’

Our metadata creators were up to the challenge! Luckily, Forman wrote a diary while in Vietnam in November, 1950, so we were able to verify a time and place. The man was serving in Vietnam during the First Indochina War (1946 – 1954) on the French side. The context was a little more difficult, but a subtle clue was stamped right before our eyes. The label on the crate in the shape of a shield with the stars and stripes of the American flag says ‘From U.S.A. for Mutual Defense.’ Our research uncovered that the crate contained supplies from the United States through the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949, legislation that provided non-military foreign aid to North Atlantic Treaty partners including France. The U.S. sent supplies to the French in Vietnam to support their fight against communism and the Viet Minh during the First Indochina War.

But the clues didn’t end there. We could just make out a stamp on the side of a crate that says ‘Burgess Battery Co. Freeport, IL.” A quick search uncovered that the Burgess Battery Co. was founded by Charles F. Burgess, founder of the University of Wisconsin – Madison Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Burgess also founded the Madison-based Rayovac Corporation (formerly French Battery Company), one of the country’s largest battery producers. Burgess developed flashlight and radio batteries in the early 1900s, with which, under military contract, he supplied the troops during World War I, suggesting that Burgess possibly continued military contracts in the future. Burgess left UW-Madison in 1913 and founded Burgess Battery Company in 1917, which he eventually moved from Madison to Freeport, Illinois in 1925 to start a new division.

Suddenly, an image of a man carrying a crate in Indochina became a much more complex story – one with Wisconsin ties!

To see the full record for the image, visit our Digital Collections Asia and Middle East portal


Harry S. Truman: “Statement by the President Upon Issuing Order Providing for the Administration of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act.,” January 27, 1950. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering. (1996). ChE Funder also helped spur battery industry, Perspective, Vol. 23.

-Susan Dykes

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Scanning Large Formats: 1861 Map of Korea

The UW Milwaukee Digital Collections hosts the American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection featuring nearly 2,000 maps. Everything from everyday local maps to historic treasures are included. One map, the Daedong yeojido or “Territorial Map of the Great East,” was added in 2009.

The map was part of a larger purchase by the American Geographical Society (AGS) of New York in 1895. Several maps, an atlas, and forty-three photographs were acquired from the father of American diplomat George C. Foulk. For more than one hundred years, the significance of those materials went largely unrecognized until 2008 when the map was recognized as a National Treasure in Korea.

1861 Map of Korea.
1861 Map of Korea
In preparation for a 2009 symposium, scanning the map became a priority. The map is a wood block print on twenty-two folded sheets which presented a new scanning challenge to staff. When displayed open, the map measures nearly thirteen feet wide and twenty feet in length. The long sheets were designed to be folded accordion style making this large map easier to use.

Map spread out in the AGS Library to the full 13x22 feet in size
 The map was scanned using a sheet feed Colortrak 4280 Color Scanner at a 300 dpi resolution. Images were saved as tiffs ranging in size from 24 MB to 95 MB with the composite image coming in at a walloping 213 MB.

Majority of maps are scanned using the sheet feed Colortrak 4280 Color Scanner.
Majority of maps are scanned using the sheet heed Colortrak 4280 Color Scanner

The composite image was plotted for the event using a 60 inch wide Hewlett Packard 5500ps plotter.
The composite image was plotted for the event using a 60" wide Hewlett Packard 5500ps plotter

The map is now available for viewing at the American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection where you can see details of each sheet, the manuscript index sheet and the composite view here.

More information about the symposium and the map can be found here.