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UW-Eau Claire Public History Students Help
with Collaborative Exhibit in Cable

RELEASED: July 7, 2008

EAU CLAIRE — Ten undergraduate and graduate history students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire spent the spring semester helping put together elements of a companion exhibit to "Between Fences," a Smithsonian Museums on Main Street Exhibition, which has been on display in the northern Wisconsin town of Cable since May 31. The exhibit will end July 12.

"Between Fences" began last fall with the selection of six Wisconsin communities of under 10,000 people to host the traveling exhibit for six weeks each. The communities of Waupaca, Hales Corners, LaFarge, Sauk Prairie, Clear Lake and Cable were asked to create companion exhibits focused on local history and aligned to the themes of the Smithsonian exhibit, which reveals how central the fence is to the American landscape and how it helped shape our history.

Dr. John Mann, UW-Eau Claire assistant professor of history, said he is always looking for new opportunities for his "Seminar in Public History" students and felt the "Between Fences" project would be perfect. Public history students must produce traditional academic papers based on individual research as well as individual and group projects aimed at public audiences.

"This class is essentially a group internship," Mann said.

The "Between Fences" project involved many partners, including the Cable Natural History Museum, which is hosting the traveling exhibit; the Cable Historical Society Museum, where the students' history panels are being exhibited; the Wisconsin Historical Society, with Janet Seymour of the Northern Field Services Offices (housed in UW-Eau Claire's history department) helping with exhibit design and project coordination; the Wisconsin Humanities Council, which coordinated and facilitated the traveling Smithsonian exhibit; the Migizi Cultural Center at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College; and UW-Eau Claire.

The students, who made three trips to Cable as a group, first met with the local historical society, which had identified themes it wanted help exploring regarding Cable's history. Four were identified: American Indian history, immigration, farming and lumbering, and recreation and tourism. In each case, the students, who worked with partners to explore a particular theme, considered how the history of each topic related to conceptions of land ownership and use, boundaries, and the way they influence relationships.

Mann said one example was a portion of a student panel titled "A Tale of Two Maps."

"That project was particularly well done and showed the contrast between a map used during the era when lumber barons controlled vast tracts of land, versus a map from the later farming era, when lands were cut up into much smaller and more regularly sized portions," Mann said.

On June 13, the Wisconsin Humanities Council held a board meeting in Hayward and then traveled to Cable to view the exhibit. Jessica Becker, director of public programs for the WHC, said she felt the contributions made by the UW-Eau Claire students were excellent and helped make the local part of the exhibit much more relevant.

"It was obvious that the students had really gotten engaged in the subject matter and the process." Becker said. "And that engagement was reflected in the quality of the product. I was so glad I got to see it."

Students who worked on the "Between Fences" exhibit in Cable included graduate students Stacy Bork, Watertown; Mathew Foss, Washington Island; Lee Kluck, Rosholt; Ken Tambornino, Wausau; and Aimee Walberg, South Range; as well as undergraduates Kyle Engelking, Chippewa Falls; Eric Kayser, Eau Claire; Rachel Knudson, Rice Lake/Chippewa Falls; Dan Schauer, Franklin; and Helen Young, Neenah. Foss also worked on an earlier "Between Fences" exhibit for the town of Clear Lake while completing an internship under the direction of Dr. James Oberly, UW-Eau Claire professor of history.

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NW

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